Thursday, August 5, 2010

My Freudian phase

For the fourth image I was working on last week, I tried to incorporate Lucien Freud's style.  What I like about Freud's work is the utter humanity in it.  His paint surfaces are thick and groddy with lots of grey in them.  I never use grey.  I avoid grey!  Freud's studio is a horrible mess with rags and globbed paint and dirt all over the place.  I try to keep mine neat and clean and tidy so I can find everything, and I have to clearn up and organize before starting a new picture each time.  Freud's studio looks like he's never done that.  I feel sorry for his models who lie on piles of rags or a ragged bed or sofa.  I don't judge it so much as I'm aware I would be very uncomfortable being there!  But I LOVE his paintings.  There is a raw strength in them that comes from both the presence of the painted surface and from the presence of the models in his work.  He works from life and spends 100's of hours on each piece.  He models the surface almost like a sculptor with clay.

When I decided to study his work and to try to emulate aspects of his style, I realized several things - my paint had to be lots thicker; I had to use grey; I couldn't use many colors; I had to put on more layers than I'm used to, in much thicker paint.

I mixed up a pallette of colors and literally put dirt and chalk into them to thicken them and dry them out.  I also mixed up an achromatic grey using black and white.  I had never painted with black before.  I still didn't use it directly, but it certainly is in all the colors I used.  The first part I started to paint was the leg.  I had some lovely layers on it and was feeling good about it when Thomas came up, globbed on about an inch of paint on a flat brush and applied it crudely to the canvas - "No!  Now that's more like it!"  Ugh!  He ruined my pretty picture!  AND, admittedly, (pout), made my picture more powerful because I had to bring it all up to that level.  Now the leg looks like you see it on the right - it looks like I put clay on the canvas and made the darn thing 3-D.  I don't find it appealing and don't want to paint this way in general, but it's an outstanding exercise for learning what the possibilities are.  I would otherwise NEVER glob so much paint on!  Ugly!!

I finished the rest of the model's lower body similarly with lots of paint.  It felt freeing to glob the paint on and to let it be so ugly.  I didn't worry about messing up because I knew I could cover it in another layer with more paint.  That gave me a sweet freedom to experiment with colors and shading I might not have done otherwise.

That took me through the end of the morning.  In the afternoon, I began on her upper body.  Thomas wasn't around so much, so I drifted back somewhat to my more normal way of painting.  The paint is smoother, but I still worked with the colors more like I perceive him to.  I used grey and found that to be quite powerful.  I upped the amps on the colors to a certain extent the way Jenny Saville did, so sort of began to combine what I'd learned from both artists.

I think this upper part is more the way I'll try to paint in my next piece: considerably thicker paint, stronger color, bolder choices, more trust of the paint.  I'm realizing I have the skills now to render what I want to.  Now that I can do that, I can begin to experiment more and use my skills to explore other things.  The skills are there.  I can count on them and can begin to see just what it's possible to do with paint.

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