Saturday, April 2, 2016

It isn't overworking; it's just working

D in the studio (in progress)
40 x 30
I'm becoming more patient as I age.  I used to want to finish each painting on the same day that I started it, but, in the past couple of years, this has changed.  Purely alla prima work sometimes looks raw and barely begun to me.  Increasingly, my eyes are drawn to paintings that appear to have been modified, layered, corrected, and touched over a longer period of time and with constant thought and scrutiny.

Alex Kanevsky is a case in point with his many iterations on the same canvas (have a look at his "progress sequences" on his website to see his willingness to address a single painting over and over until it becomes a rich, multi-layered presence).  Other painters that I admire for the way they develop a piece are John Murray, Martin Campos, Scott Smith,  Ann Gale, and many other social media connections that I look at on a daily basis.  They are painters (though Smith is mostly posting complicated, constantly revised and in-progress drawings lately) who revel in the act of painting and for whom a final mark seems almost a secondary aim.  They appear to love the process.

Or maybe I'm projecting my own feelings onto these artists.  I don't know them in person, but I admire their courage in pushing a work beyond the first, simple layers.  It resonates with what I am enjoying more often in the studio.

The painting above is in its infancy.  I honestly don't know when or how it will be finished, and that's no longer the worry for me that it used to be.  The process is endlessly engaging.  The model is a friend of my son's who has stilled her active body to sit for me.  She's been in for 3 sessions so far, and I've been working at a leisurely pace, with much time spent thinking, looking, and revisiting areas.  After she left yesterday, I photographed the painting, and then scraped a lot of the body and background down so that I can continue to alter it.  I'm using a very coarse linen that takes a lot of abuse, and that requires a lot of paint on its surface before the colour and consistency look rich.

You can see from this picture, that the first layer was just a way to place her figure on the canvas and establish a sense of the colour space.  I figured out basic skin colours and temperatures and noticed the essentials of her clothing and surrounding colours.  The face was a simple separation of shadow and light, full of hard edges and showing no dimension.

I didn't photograph the second sitting, but the third shows how much the face has altered as I scraped, layered and revised it.   (It's not this warm in person, but there was a lot of sun yesterday and I couldn't avoid it in the photography.)

What I hope you can get a sense of is the amount of attention that's been paid to the building of paint volume and how often I've gone back into the edges to settle them into the painting.  It looks more like her, but that wasn't the point: I wanted it to look more like a 3 dimensional person, not a 2-D cartoon.  It could all still change.

There's much to do in the weeks and - maybe - months ahead, both with and without the model present.  At this point, I feel I'll be braver with her out of my sight.  I can alter the work more substantially if the reality of the model, the couch, and the white curtain are not always in my view. Maybe I'll get in the studio and give it another scraping because I think I was too timid yesterday, trying to save too much that actually needs to be sacrificed.  And that's ok.  It's all part of the process toward achieving something that pleases my eyes - as they are at this moment.

Happy painting!


Kate Pearce said...

Brave and bold! The courage to keep destroying and reworking is indeed a challenge! Thanks for sharing.

Ingrid Christensen said...

Thanks, Kate! It's taken a long time to get to this bravery. I guess it's a constant evolution, and an enjoyable one.

Kathy Hale said...

Thanks for taking the time to share so generously Ingrid. My studio is finally ready tomorrow and you have provided good food for thought for this fresh start. I think I will start working on a painting that I previously considered finished and see where it goes. The best to you!

Ingrid Christensen said...

Hey, Kathy! I was just thinking about you and wondering how the move went. I'm glad to hear that your studio is settled; that's the important thing.

I'm glad you're going to pick up an old work and revisit it. It's always some of my most interesting work when I do that.

My best to you, too. Keep me posted on your new life.