Friday, January 7, 2011

Exciting new piece, different process

The last couple of days I've been working on starting a new piece.  Chris built the stretcher for the canvas two weeks ago then the other day after finishing the piece of Valley and all the little canvases for Don't Mess with Me, we finally stretched the canvas.  I gridded the canvas as I usually do then drew the image on it.

Once I drew the image, it stared at me for a long time - hours, maybe days.  I was working up my  courage to approach it well.  I knew I didn't want to just fill in the blanks, color inbetween the lines.  I feel like I did that on the last couple of major pieces I did and it is ultimately unsatisfying.  I did it because I wanted to pieces to be good; I was under deadline; and I knew I knew how to do it that way, so I did.  But the process of painting like that just wasn't as interesting or satisfying.  There was no risk to it.  I ended up not being very interested in the process and found myself wondering if I had was doing the right thing by quitting my day job to paint.  It wasn't really all that fun!

so I knew I wanted to do something different with this one.  I sat and meditated on it for a while.  I spoke to a friend about it.  She looked at me and wisely said, "You just need permission."  SO TRUE!  So she patted me on the back, looked me knowingly in the eye, then quickly and wisely left the studio.  The first thing I did was put paint on my palette.  Lots of paint.  Blues and purple and thalo green.  Then I picked up my palette knife and, without knowing what I was going to do, started smearing the paint into the background.  It was fun!  It felt really good.  I kept going.  When I got done with that, I put out some other colors - alizaron crimson, indian gold - bunches of transparent yellows and reds and browns - and smeared them into the floor.  It's hard to see in this image, but you can see it better in the others.

I stopped when I was done with that, stymied about what to do next.  I thought about drawing her in pastels and letting the contrast be interesting.  But I wasn't really curious about how that would work.  I went to clean up an edge and ended up smearing paint into the shadows.  Then I knew I was committed because there wasn't really a good way to blend those strokes with anything else, so I decided to go for it - I don't need this piece for anything - I'm just doing it for myself, so I can screw it up all I want to and nothing is lost.  That's a necessary feeling for me to have in order for me to be able to learn anything new.  Otherwise my perfectionist streak kicks in and the results can be pretty and almost perfect, but the process isn't as interesting, and I don't think the results are as full of vitality most of the time.

I kept working on the body til hunger started making me grumpy and I realized I really needed to go eat.  I also have to get ready to go to DC today, in 40 minutes I have to leave!  Gotta get going!  but I wanted to write about this first.

After lunch, I finished up the hands- they go a lot faster with a palette knife than with tiny brushes and persnickety painful approaches.

It isn't clear to me how much I'll go back into the body the next time I get a chance to paint.  It tells the story as it is.  It isn't 100% accurate, but it isn't really necessary for it to be.  It's fascinating to see how much the eye will complete when given some information.  Usually I try to render the figure photographically perfectly.  I go back and forth trying to decide what I prefer.  This one felt great to do - I felt completely engaged and didn't even listen to music or a book on tape which I often do in order to keep myself focused.  I'm sure that's worth paying attention to!

If you have opinions on this piece and how you like it compared to my normal work, I'd be interested to hear it.  It's a big question for me aesthetically.  I probably can't progress like I'd like to as an artist if I don't sort this out, and I have a feeling that this piece is closer to where I'm going than others have been.

I find this to be such a fascinating journey!  Thanks for joining me for this small bit of it!

1 comment:

  1. I really like the texture of the painting. Love it!