by Tom Root, oil on canvas

“Autoharp” was painted for the cover of my music CD: “A Whirlwind of Leaves.” It is meant to be something of an homage to Botticelli with its blowing hair and leaves, and its linear design. I was trying to do a kind of Appalachian muse with an autoharp instead of a lyre. (Sarah and Maybelle Carter of the famous Carter Family, the first family of hillbilly music, both played the autoharp.)

It is not a naturalistic painting, but a stylized design based on preparatory drawings and color studies from my imagination. I started with life drawings which I xeroxed at various size percentages and cut and pasted until satisfied with the arrangement. Then I transferred the final drawing to the canvas and painted from life, trying to keep within my preset color and design parameters.

I developed the painting in several stages of underpainting to keep it controlled and harmonious.

I constructed out of cardboard a lightweight exact size faux autoharp for my sitter to hold. The drawing and painting of the real autoharp took a long time, and I will never again paint another autoharp.

I designed the placement of leaves by first painting on transparent plastic overlays taped to the canvas. I hung leaves by strings around the studio for study.

The painting originally had darker clouds in the background, but I painted a light yellow sky over them to unify the design by silhouetting the figure.    

Images Copyright 2005, Thomas B. Root