In my search to simplify and still entertain the viewer with excitement in my paintings of Linemen, I have begun an approach using orange (or other color) stained watercolor paper as a beginning.
As you already know, I have been working on many different versions of this same still life.
Nothin’ new, you say?
I would beg your indulgence for just a moment. Playing “What If” is no boring pastime. It is the sure path to discovering something new, something unusual . . . . .and certainly the path to finding one’s personal voice in painting. Y’see, when the artist has nothing to lose and it doesn’t matter what others think about a piece, that artist is much more willing to take chances and try things that may not make sense or to take risks when more ‘serious’ approaches would cause risk avoidance.
As this painting was finished today, there was a missing element in the lower right foreground. It was here that the risk was staring back at me and mocking me to go ahead. The pattern of “dotted i’s” on the green vase needed another repetition and that lower corner needed some of that neutralized green to balance things. So, there it is. Could I have spoiled the painting? Yep. Was I taking a risk (can’t erase here with all that surrounding texture)? Yep. Does it make sense or seem ‘real?’ Nope. Did it work? Yep.
I think, frankly, that little silly touch is actually funny. The entire tone of the painting (mood) is sort of tongue in cheek. The entire painting is constructed of “what if” shapes and colors and values. Reality is suggested when it couldn’t possibly be that way. So, the doodling around with an old theme, just messin’ with ideas to see what would happen exposed some new approaches having to do with repeating patterns, gradations, shapes and color intensities. I learned more today!
Isn’t that what this painting business is all about? Growth and learning?
There are tons of reasons for it, one of which is to improve on a theme. The least obvious is that through the confinement of doing some single thing over and over again is that the artist’s creative mind is awakened and begins to work overtime. I say that it is liberation through confinement.
I can get very excited about this stuff, especially when the weather is offering sunshine and lots of subjects to paint. I must confess that I have taken on a near madness in this pursuit . . . .making two paintings a day! Yes. I am falling out of bed at sunrise, pulling on some clothes and leaving the house to paint. In five days, ten paintings have appeared. So far this month, 20 paintings have happened. And I have more waiting to be done. (Yes, there is other stuff getting accomplished, too, for those who are wondering about that. 😉 )
I am not sure of what to do with all this energy, except that I have an ethic about getting better and better at something. That ethic is to practice . . . .a lot !! If being taught by an expert, the expert will openly say something to the effect of “get the first 500 paintings out of the way, quickly,” . . . . . . which is really about producing quantity versus concern for quality. In that production of quantity, all sorts of things develop . . .not the least of which is to build a firm familiarity with how the medium responds. Moreover, a relaxation by the artist takes over at some point. That is an attitude of accepting what is happening on the canvas rather than trying to steer it. It is there, in that attitude that one’s style emerges. It is there, in that attitude that quality appears as a result of an internal knowing of what that medium will do when left undisturbed. (Am I saying this correctly?) . . . .and so leaving that brush stroke to say what it will.
In a fascinating book I am reading, “The Outliers,” by Malcom Gladwell, he speaks of mastery of anything coming as a result of being involved with it for ten thousand hours. Yes, it sounds like a lot of time. When I thought about it, and recounted what amount of time has passed while I had a watercolor brush in hand over the years (or was studying it) . . . .those hours long since passed. Who was counting?? Not me! I just wanted to paint!! Just like today. I just want to paint. I have to paint. That is to say, there is not a choice. I must!
Maybe mastery will come at some point. Maybe it won’t. I don’t care if it does or does not. In the chase, I get to paint !! And that, Dear Reader, is what makes this guy’s clock tick. It is the music to which I dance . . . . .and dance . . .and dance . . .and dance! What a joy!
And this painting above was simply the joy to undertake the challenge. Life is sooo good!
So, I did.
Something about the usual portraits has always troubled me . . . .that is that many artists are so wrapped up in the details of the face, that they miss the value abstraction possibilities and the interest created by non symmetrical shapes. Mind you, I am not speaking of noses, chins, foreheads and that sort of shape. I am speaking of the shapes of the various VALUES of the light. In my book, it is the pattern of light on the face which makes a portrait much more powerful.
But what do I know? I don’t paint portraits. I slapped this one out in about two hours and realized that there is a lot to learn about color in portraiture. Temperature and intensities make huge differences in the painting of facial perspective.
As a person with an analytical mind and a nature for curiosity and understanding through logical process and detail, I have had to build the right side of my brain. That process hasn’t been easy. My nature is to crisply copy what is in front of me. And doing otherwise has been more than difficult.
Merging shapes, distorting ideas and color for the sake of making something a bit ambiguous is a process which must be learned. That goes for losing edges, creating color harmonies, assigning values . . . .all stuff which is outside of “reality.” For the person of logical mind, these things can be daunting to learn. But, if making art is the goal . . .and fine art at that . . . . .then they MUST be learned.
Someone once said, “Irritatingly precise – Charmingly incorrect.” I think that says a lot about making art that is magically attractive. Those four words hold much wisdom, I think.
The above process shows how a piece is developed to deliberately create ambiguity and hold a viewer’s attention. It is a terrific way to create ‘shapes’ that would otherwise not be possible via sudden epiphany. In this process (also see last post) the overlapping of multiple line drawings makes for serendipity discovery. And, believe me, it is confusing, but truly fun!
There are times in the studio when one needs to exercise the creative muscle, if, for nothing else, to regain it’s strength . . . . . and to experience something new . . . even if it doesn’t come out right.
Early yesterday morning, I was busy working on a lesson for a class. This idea came to mind as a way to break open barriers to doing something new and different. My classes are encouraged to CREATE. And I attempt to give the participants access to some possible paths they might employ to start the creative thought process. Those hints lie in the seven elements of design, Line, Size, Shape, Direction, Color, Value and Texture.
In this exercise, I took each of the elements and asked myself “What could I do with______? (Insert one or more elements). First, I decided on a dominance which had to pervade the picture space . . . .that, of course, sets up the environment for contrasts and harmonies. Here I chose a yellow green dominance (color) with violet contrasts. Also, I sought an angular dominance (line and shape). By subdividing the shapes into angular ‘shards’ (shape) I created a repetition which set texture dominance. You can also see a diagonal dark crossing the vertical composition which adds other contrasts (value, color and direction).
Some wonder about the disappearance of ‘spontaneity’ in this kind design planning. All the above paragraph does is set a framework under which the artist can explore different design choices. By doing so, the artist assures a degree of success while stretching the imagination. The outcome is that the artist can see more easily the results of interrelationships of the elements. It is in that stretching, exploration and acquiring new experience that can contribute a spontaneous insertion of *knowledge* into future works. All paintings cannot be masterpieces, but they can certainly be part of the cumulative experience which leads to anticipating outcomes and, thus, mastery