Sunday, January 14, 2007

How I paint

Late last summer another daily painter artist asked me how I paint. I promised her I'd post the information to my blog. Diligently, I did, posting how I prepare canvases and the types of mediums and mixtures I use. By the time I got around to posting how I paint--five months later--the actual process of how I paint changed, not that unusual for me. Painting is like navigating a bumpy road. Sometimes you go slow, sometime you go fast, sometimes you change course altogether. The best techniques often go awry and I vow to paint in an altogether different fashion, which then runs it's course and I start over again. Best to just explain how I was painting then, and go on to how I want to paint now.

Then, ie: last summer, after mentoring with an Old Master's accomplished artist--a truly amazing lady--I learned how to apply a Verdaccio, followed by several layers of thinned flesh or background colors, building up a transulent and glossy surface. The finished paintings are truly amazing, replete with detail and translucence. I look at them with awe. Did I really paint them? Yes. Could I do it again? Maybe. One of them took me from July to December--five months. In the process I became bored, impatient, frustrated, unfocused and elated. I've discovered I'm a narcisistic painter. When I'm painting it's all about me. How I feel about the painting and how it looks at that very moment. If I don't get gratified, I find it hard to keep going. And granted, there was plenty of gratification when I got to the fifth month. But getting there? It takes a lot out of me. Here's one example. And one more.

Then came the holidays and my typical goal setting, mental house-cleaning New Year's mentality. I vowed to paint faster, freer and with more emotion and less technical perfection. Coupled with a chance to read a couple of good books about Georgia O'Keeffe and Vincent Van Gogh. Did either of them spend more than a day on a painting? I think not! They painted immediately, sensorily and from the emotion of color. That is what I want to do.
Thus, two paintings emerged. One came with plenty of frustration. The other with ease. Don't ask me why. But they emerged into either simplification of form or direct application of color.

I found a wonderful website called the Vincent Van Gogh Painting Project that describes the "fond brun" (rose/violet tinted) canvas surface that was typical in Van Gogh's time. I tinted my canvas in a similar fashion, using gesso mixed with a rose and cad. yellow acrylic. It was both calming and stimulating to paint on a surface that is beautiful even before I stroke the brush. Small areas left uncovered show through with the wonderful pink/orange tint that I've so often wondered about in his paintings. Now I know!
Simply stated, I mixed up a whole bunch of colors with abandon, stroked them onto the fond brun tinted surface without much blending, kept my brushes and mixtures clean, didn't use any medium, and stopped before I could mess it all up! Viola, that's how I paint now, or at least how I want to keep painting until I change course again. Results? I'll let you decide. . . .

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