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Showing posts from December, 2015

Change one thing: change everything

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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 pain…

Honest looking and painting

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Weekly figure painting is becoming a fantastic tool for exploring and learning.  It's out of the comfort and control of my studio; the cool, chiaroscuro lighting is different than anything I'd set up; my palette is shrouded in darkness; and I'm in a room with other artists.  There are so many new variables and I can't rely on my usual working methods and tricks to paint the figure.  I reallyhave to look and I really have to think.  That sounds obvious, but, like any other learned skill, there are a lot of processes that can easily become automatic, and thoughtless over time.  A painter may always use certain colours for skin, or always make shadows a certain value or temperature, regardless of the reality of the model in front of her.

As a consequence of being off balance, I find I'm painting slowly, carefully, and analytically.  The pleasure of "the zone" is absent (hopefully only temporarily), but it feels like an education.

This week's model was …