Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Change one thing: change everything

Pewter and Reds
20 x 16
Progress in painting, there's no such thing! ...One day I went and changed the yellow on my palette. Well, the result was, I floundered for ten years! (Pierre-Auguste Renoir)

The title of my blog is "A Painter's Progress" and, while I've progressed since I began writing it years ago, it's never been a linear progression.  There are nearly as many backward steps as forward ones, and each requires me to stop and reevaluate my process and aesthetic before I can resolve it.  That sounds so optimistic and simplistic.  What actually happens is that good paintings just stop flowing out of my brush, sometimes for weeks on end, and I can't figure out why.  As the paintings keep failing, I keep bashing away at them from different angles: Different subject? Bigger paintings?  Or smaller?  Brighter?  More muted?  Much paint is applied and scraped off.  

It's taken a while to figure out this latest impasse and to discover what's changed in my approach to painting, but I finally nailed it: I'm using a lot more paint and richer colours,  That has changed everything.  The paint consistencies that I had nailed down no longer feel right at this point in my development, which means that I've had to learn a new technique.  It's based firmly in the old one, but it relies less on thin layers and more on big, luscious paint.  And white has been relegated to a less prominent role.  

New work is flowing again, and I find that the intensive, frustrating period of thinking and experimenting has taught me a lot and made me excited to explore new avenues.  It's hard won, and it is progress!

Happy painting!


LindaHunt said...

I can relate to everything that you are saying....while my approach is different I too go through changes....some defeats....but always moving forward. I love your thought process and it inspires me. Hope that the New Year is rewarding for you in many ways......!!!

Julie Ford Oliver said...

Thank you. A great and helpful post.
The stage you talk about is so frustrating. It is not just with painters either. I see it involve golfers, potters, musicians. In fact, all disciplines where the head works with the hand. It always appears to be part of growth, but when in the struggle I personally feel I am going backwards. When an artist of your caliber shares so honestly it puts it all into perspective and encourages us all.
Love the quote!

Ingrid Christensen said...

Many thanks for the supportive comment, Julie. It's hard to admit to failings and struggles, and I appreciate hearing that the topic resonates with other painters. I always laugh when students tell me they've taken up painting because "it's so relaxing". That is not my world!

Christine said...

You really expressed that process well and it is so familiar to me. It is comforting to know that those periods of "failed paintings" is more common than I thought. I don't feel so alone in that process. Of course I love your work as well!

Ingrid Christensen said...

Thanks for writing, Christine. From the response I've been getting to this post, it sounds like we have a lot of company in our solitary painters' blocks. There should be a support group!

Ingrid Christensen said...

Thanks for the comment, Linda. It is important to remember that we are always moving forward. Not always towards the forward that I thought I'd be heading into, but forward nonetheless.

annie said...

Thanks Ingrid for this post. I saw it when I was in the middle of my first real sustained block. I didn't know what I wanted to paint and when I did nothing was "working". It was very comforting to know others have these periods too. I remember one instructor I had years ago say "some days are painting days and some aren't," but this particular block lasted a couple of weeks.
Thanks again! Your work is stunning!

Ingrid Christensen said...

Thanks for writing, Annie, and letting me know that this post meant something to you. It has brought comments from a lot of kindred, struggling spirits.
I'm glad your latest painting block is past!

Happy painting!