Sunday, June 17, 2018

No such thing as overworking

Summer Walk
14 x 18"
Rose Frantzen once said in an interview that a painting is like the alphabet, from A to Z.  But if you always stop at D, out of the fear of overworking it, you'll miss out on the potentially great things that might happen at L.  This resonated.

"Summer Walk" started as a fresh, rough statement with a nice mood and, thanks to a lot of preliminary Photoshop and watercolour studies, good colour.  It could have been left largely as it was, and it had just enough nice moments for me to have reached the tweaking stage - I was using smaller brushes, and not making big changes to shapes - but it felt unsatisfying.  There's a richness and depth that comes from working a surface several times that was absent in this alla prima piece.  

version 1
So I scraped it down, and let it dry.  Scraping ensured that I blurred the surface, and destroyed those nice moments that were holding the piece back.  

When it was dry, I went back with big brushes, restating the thing that was important to me about this piece: the colour scheme.  The reference for this was a b&w family photo, and I'd envisioned the scene as a candy box array of pastel colour notes.  That concept had gotten lost in the task of rendering the figures.  This step brought me back to my concept and added a welcome layer of complexity to the surface.
version 2
By restating all of my shapes larger, I regained the potential for negative shaping, and also moved the colours around the composition, creating a greater sense of unity.  Suddenly, the painting had new avenues for me to explore, and the initial version had become just an underpainting.  I couldn't have arrived at the finished statement without it, and I got some of those "L" revelations that are so satisfying.

Happy painting!

Friday, June 8, 2018

1-Day Composition Workshop, Calgary

Dynamic Compositions
a 1-Day Workshop
Sept. 8, 2018
Leighton Art Centre
Calgary, AB

No amount of fancy brushwork can save a weak composition, but what exactly is a strong composition?  We've all read about the rule of thirds, the Golden Ratio, focal points and leading the eye. Yet, many of us struggle to put it all together, and make a compelling series of shapes and angles that lead the viewer happily through the painting, from one discovery to the next, with total control.  Many artists don't even know that's possible.

I'll be teaching a 1-day composition workshop on September 8 which will show you just how much control you have over the whole picture plane, and your viewer's experience of your work.

This workshop will put you firmly in charge of your painting from the very first mark; helping you to organize complex scenes into clear, coherent, and powerful paintings.

Working from your own photos, you'll learn how to develop a concept and then simplify, organize, and manipulate your images to achieve that concept.

You'll learn the tricks to creating dynamic shapes, and how to avoid excessive detail, and you'll discover the abstract heart that lies within every successful image.

For 2-D artists working in any medium and genre. 

To register, please contact the Leighton Art Centre

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Sanding a painting

Offering revisited
20 x16
This painting sat on the shelf for quite a while.  I knew it wasn't right, but it wasn't totally wrong either - something that would allow the easy choice of a scrape off or a frisbee toss into the trash.  So I sanded and scraped it down to a thinner paint film and worked it again.  

Those of you who have taken workshops with me know my thoughts on sanding pigments: not a smart idea.  Stupid, actually. And I still think that.  Airborne pigments are terribly toxic (especially cadmiums - but no pigments should be inhaled), so let me just tell you that I did take precautions.  First, I wet the whole painting with odourless mineral spirits, and then, wearing nitrile gloves, I sanded the surface with wet-dry sandpaper.  I didn't go for fine grit paper - which would give fine particles - allowing the scratches of a coarse paper to become part of the work's surface interest.  
Wet sanding created a dark, messy sludge on the painting's surface which had to be wiped off often with paper towels and more solvent, but none of it floated poisonously around or hit the studio floor.  I couldn't have done it on a soft surface, but the birch panel took a beating.   I did have to be very careful to avoid scratching through the layers of acrylic gesso priming.  

Below is the painting in its original state.  It had some good points, but was too specific and individual a portrait for my liking.  What I really enjoy about all of the "person holding fish" pictures that I see is the universality of the gesture.  If they intend to release the fish, all anglers adopt a reverent, gentle, cradling posture - offering the fish to the camera with pride and care.  In the repaint, that was what I aimed to capture.  

Happy painting!