Since the last blog post struck a cord with so many readers, I've decided to continue in a related direction. I've included "in progress" photos to help explain the wandering path some paintings take on their way to completion.
In the previous post, I discussed someone at a show suggesting that my paintings were merely photos with paint smeared over them... an advanced version of "paint by numbers" if you will. The absurdity of that concept makes my head hurt. In the days following that rant, I've found that the practice is actually more common than one might think. Suddenly, I feel like my head is going to explode again!
|White charcoal drawing over gray gesso|
Yes, painting over a photo will certainly make someone's work "look like a photo," but if you lack the basics in drawing and visual problem solving, there will be no poetry in your work. If you possess these skills (see "Talent... or Skill?" Dec 8, 2011), there's no need to confine yourself to the shackles of strictly recreating a photo. That's not art. It's simply a monotonous exercise with no more challenge than a child's coloring book. Period!
The actual process of making art is rarely straight forward. No matter how much planning I do (and I do a lot!), there are always unexpected problems that arise along the way. It's the unique solutions to these problems that breathe life into a painting. It's that part of the journey that makes me proud to be an artist and constantly keeps me on my toes.
Just for the sake of making a point, I've started off with a photo of my neutral gray gesso covered panel and the initial white charcoal drawing. The drawing is done with a modified grid transfer method.
|Starting to refine shapes|
The subsequent images show the painting in various stages of completion. I was pleased with the block-in of approximate tones and hues. It always helps when the early stages of a painting start to take on the intended feel. That keeps me excited and hungry to move forward.
As I start to refine the shapes, I also pay very close attention to contrast. The finished painting will have a relatively high level of contrast, though there will be almost nothing painted completely "black". I rarely use straight "out of the tube" black for anything. Most of the darks in my work are achieved by adjusting a base mixture of burnt umber, ultramarine blue, and a bit of crimson.
|Time to rethink a few elements and continue to refine|
The painting begins to come together using a method I call "focus squares" (see "The Process of Focus Squares" October 13, 2009). Again, I am happy with the progress, but I'm starting to find a few problem areas... the biggest being the blue heron. I originally planned to have the bird lit up with the warm morning sun against the darker hillside in the background. The more I thought about it, I began to feel the painting would be more interesting if the heron was pushed back into the shadows behind the sun-drenched boulders in the middleground. Hmmmmmmmmmmm.....