The Art of Derek Dohren

painting, writing, photography


Man With a Harmonica

This painting was inspired by a piece of music of the same name, written by Italian composer Ennio Morricone for one of his western film scores.

step 1

I 'drew' in the basic figure I wanted of the man playing a harmonica. I ultimately want him to be fairly vague and merely to appear as an outline, heavily silhouetted, but this is just about where I want him in the composition.

I have used burnt umber to sketch the figure and I have blocked in the upper part of the canvas with a mixture of cerrulean blue and burnt umber.

step 2

Brilliant orange! This guy's going to be sitting in a semi-desert landscape somewhere in the old wild west. I'm trying to stay reasonably true to Morricone's vision.

I have applied the orange tones very thickly and have used some thickening gel, particularly in the mesa type formation on the far right and with the hint of cactus just off centre. The figure of the man has been blended more into the surrounding atmosphere.

step 3

I want some separation of sky and ground and I also want to begin to depict the sound of the music. I go for swirling patterns in the sky at this point. I light the man from his left hand side - the light of a camp fire yet to be painted in.

The mesa has altered shape and the cactus is also catching some light from somewhere. I'm not sure I'm happy with either at this point.

step 4

It was way too orange. Time to dim the lights and really work this landscape out. Courtesy of my palette knife the mesa flattens out again and becomes more angular and I have put rocks into the right hand side stretching right into the foreground.

I have also reworked the sky and added flashes of lilac, purple and yellow. The embers of a camp fire are now glowing in the bottom right hand side of the picture. It is very deeply in shadow to the man's right

step 5

I feel that between steps 3 and 4 I lost some vibrancy along the way. I work the lights and shadows more aggressively and to get the musicality I was after I use a dot technique to overlay the painting.

I add swirls around the man's head and body to indicate the soft waves of sound. The dots are laid out in a way reminiscent of musical notation or perhaps of the body of the harmonica itself.

A full sized version of this painting can be viewed in the gallery.

It is acrylic on paper, 50cm x 40cm

Original - Sold

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currently in the gallery ...