The Haitians Spiritual Singers

by Alex Castro

 Haitian Singers”, 20″ x 27″ , oils on primed Belgium linen wood panel, painted by Alex Castro ©

When I first saw these singers perform  in a New York art gallery about 20 years ago, I was so impressed and moved by their performance that I started drawing them immediately. I showed them the drawings during the intermission and they were delighted.

 In keeping with my goal of painting a series of spiritual new age themes this year, I’m painting The “Haitian Spiritual Singers ” in oils. The original one I had painted was in water colors. However, I felt that this was such a powerful piece, it deserved the Queen of mediums, oils! That being said, I wanted to demonstrate a portraiture in realistic classic style using the old masters techniques. 
The Concept:
Even though I had done a watercolor version, I wanted something different for this oil painting. You see, it’s like I’ll know what I want when I see it, but I haven’t seen it yet! Therein lies the creative struggle.
For example, I visualized the singer with African features but with a classical Greek nose reminiscent of a Hellenic Goddess making her my own “Black Orpheus Goddess” poised to sing spiritual hymns! 
I have been working on the singer’s face full time for the last couple of days. Every detail, gesture and tone is critical for me. Time does not matter… it’s about the quality and trying to create a meaningful work of art.
This is a powerful piece that I’m sure you will enjoy in seeing it come to life in this work in progress series.
On this close-up, you you can see the progression of my work on an oiled primed and toned wood panel covered with Belgium linen. I tone the panel with a small amount of  medium  mixed in to the paint. In this case is burnt umber!
This is what I call a wet drawing at this point. I’m just laying it all on the toned panel board. I’m using ivory black, brunt umber, and Flake white mixed with small amounts of commercially made medium. At this point, my goal is as mentioned earlier is to get it all filled in, working in a Chiaroscuro fashion and at the same time keeping an eye on my overall tone values!
 “Haitian Singers”, 20″ x 27″ , oils on primed Belgium linen wood panel , Work in progress by Alex Castro ©
As you can see in this in this composition there will be three singers; the singer to the left is giving her back to the viewer, placing the viewers attention on the younger singer in the center, which adds focus and balance to the composition; the singer to the right, is in a spiritual trance, which adds a very powerful element to this composition. 
This is just a scale picture to give the viewer a sense of the actual size of the composition. Although the work is 20″ x 27 it gives the viewer the impression that the work is much larger in size.
“Haitian Singers”, 20″ x 27″ , oils on primed Belgium linen wood panel , Work in progress by Alex Castro ©
Haitian Singers”, work in progress , 20″ x 27″ , tracing on paper, created and drawn  by Alex Castro A.K.A. Elia Cid

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The colorful and beautiful headdress that the Haitian singer on the far left is wearing is very prominent and at the same time balances the composition. More importantly it forces the viewer to look over her shoulder and draws the viewers attention on the young Haitian singer, as seen in these pictures below !!




The work below is all done with  flake white, ivory black and burnt umber, on toned primed Belgium lining canvas on a wood panel. At at this point, I’m just laying out and filling in the composition; working out my tones and values. I also started painting some of the clothing. Note, I’m painting in a very transparent manner so as to be able to controlled the amount of opaqueness and values!  Note that the headdress, earrings, pearls, necklaces still need work, and are missing on the Haitian singer on the right. Also no color has been added other then brunt umber!

“Haitian Singers”, 20″ x 27″, oils on primed Belgium linen wood panel, Work in progress by Alex Castro ©


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