Sketch for a new masquerade painting: Vis-à-vis

I have been working on a new masquerade piece – albeit a masquerade with a difference. Working out the actual composition always takes me the longest of time – I can spend days poking at the piece of paper in a desultory way, periodically wandering into the garden to pull out weeds, getting distracted, changing my mind about the subject, even occasionally getting on with paperwork, until at some point the sketch all starts to pull together. And then, I can actually get on with it!

masquerade sketch masquerade sketch

Clicking on the images will allow you to see them bigger…

So, here is the completed sketch. More or less as the painting will be. Preparatory drawings are negligible or non-existent; with my compositions the battle more-or-less takes place with a pencil, a rubber and a single sheet of paper. This is probably bad practice but I can’t see it changing now.

masquerade sketch (detail 1)
masquerade sketch (detail 1)
detail of the masks behind this fellow's back
detail of the masks behind this fellow’s back

As I said – a masquerade with a difference. You may observe that while most of the characters have a number of masks at their disposal, they do not have actual faces. A couple of years back I did an etching along these lines called ‘Two Faced’, but that was more stylized and less detailed: this picture may be more creepy in the end… or it may not… I shall have to wait and see how it turns out.

masquerade sketch (detail 2)
masquerade sketch (detail 2)
masks covering masks...
masks covering masks…

So far I think I shall call it ‘Vis-à-vis’ – an expression whose original French means literally face-to-face, but in English the meaning has shrunk to only mean now something like ‘with regard to’…  I spent some time looking for a phrase or some such that spoke of the surface of things as these characters are all surface and have nothing underneath, but then I was reminded of this expression and I rather like it. Any suggestions welcome, though if you have a better idea!

masquerade sketch (detail 3)
masquerade sketch (detail 3)
the girl whose mask is slipping, revealing... nothing at all
the girl whose mask is slipping, revealing… nothing at all

There are even cats in it. Oh dear… furry things 😦 I love cats, but I hate to paint fur – it masks the structure of everything, and it’s so… vague… Still, I couldn’t resist cats with masks on 🙂

masquerade sketch (detail 4)
masquerade sketch (detail 4)
the cats, of course, are innocent bystanders and up to nothing at all ;-)
the cats, of course, are innocent bystanders and up to nothing at all 😉

…so that’s the start. There’s quite a lot of meticulous tracing-out and drawing again to go now. After that, I will probably be gilding the background too, before any actual painting happens…


  1. Oh how fun. This is gonna be awesome! i can’t wait for the finished product 😉

    1. Thanks Mgon! 🙂

  2. […] it’s been nearly a month since I posted the start of this painting, and since then things seem to have been going even more slowly than usual. I know what the problem […]

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