Showing posts from April, 2016

Finding a painting's path

Every painting has its path and, for me, the struggle comes in being patient enough to find that path. This painting went through several incarnations in which I emphasized different aspects of the work and then changed my mind and focus.

At first, it was about broad, bold treatment, and the objects were much looser, but, gradually, it became a painting about light and colour.  The brushwork became distracting and I reigned it in, finding more edges and defining the complex arrangement more overtly.

Originally, it was also much more a painting about mid tones,  but I found it didn't feel as light and airy as I wanted until I broadened its tonal range to include some serious darks.  They anchored the subject, and allowed the many mid and high key elements to feel even more luminous.  This approach doesn't always work.  Sometimes adding those darks makes the piece feel weighted down and lifeless, but, in this case, it was a happy addition.

There were a lot of other changes (…

Big changes

This painting has had a lot of revision; most recently and most constantly, in the orange drape under the teapot.  It used to be green - as it was in life - and I just couldn't make it work.  All the parts were there: the green had good illumination, the shadow was accurate, but the painting didn't sing at all.

Finally, when I cut it loose from its source - the objective still life - and treated everything as open to change, I began to enjoy it more, and could make some major changes.  Changing the drape to a warm orange helped life the painting into a more inviting space, and I no longer disliked the sight of it when I entered the studio every day.  There was already a lot of orange threaded through the painting, and this gave a pleasing completeness in my eyes.

While it's liberating to change what is, to what you want it to be, it's a hard leap for most painters to make.  Whether we work from life or from photos, we tend to mine the reference for as much information…

It isn't overworking; it's just working

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 …