Thursday, September 13, 2012

Too Much Information? Don't Paint.

WATCH THE GREENS DANCE


Golds and reds are creeping into the greens as I write.






video

Today was a bum day in the studio. I came to hate my portrait of Steve and Zac. What happened was I read Vianna's blog. The  paragraph that grabbed my interest:
The first time I heard that remark, I thought, “Huh?” I spent so much time painstakingly reproducing every inch of a painting to look exactly like the photo or the set up. I took great pride in my ability to render but my art suffered for lack of editing. It also affected my enthusiasm; copying is tedious work.
She was right. Damn it.

Then I read Carolyn Andersen, Viannan's mentor's Thoughts on Painting. That article underlined what Vianna had written.

And I thought that's right. I've gone beyond where I wanted to go with Steve and Zac. I was copying a photograph. I went downstairs to the studio and tried to loosen it up, but I had gone too far; I had pushed into formal portraiture. I removed my attempt to correct strokes and went to read Schmid. He was writing about starting a painting and zeroing in on what interests you. Everything else doesn't matter. The thing that attracted me to paint Zac and Steve is the difference between their expressions: Steve, the father, is sweet and loving; Zac,the boy, was a smart-ass eleven year old.

My head was spinning from all the information I took in over the day. I ended up removing Steve and Zac from the easel. I mixed all of the paints left on the palette together to make a lovely, warm, yukky gray, good for the monochromatic, 'blocking in method.' I'll try tomorrow, without reading a thing.

I should have painted greens. I was going to, but Vianna's post side tracked me and I ended up having a day like the day I had when I took a tennis lesson on serving the ball. I was pretty good at serving walking onto the court, but not walking off. After the lesson, I couldn't serve to save my life. No aces were coming off of my racquet; my head was filled with what-you-should-do pointers from the pro.

Bottom line: If you're reading about how artists make art, don't paint that day and expect anything worthwhile. You need time to absorb the information. Instead, go out on the deck and watch the trees dance with the wind.

Interesting fact: Schmid paints on lead primed canvas or masonite. That allows him to go back to a totally white surface if he has to. Gesso primed canvas absorbs the colors that stain.

19 comments:

  1. Such an interesting post Linda. I think there's a learnable part (techniques etc) to everything and then there's an unlearnable part, the part that we already have, intuitively (but still have to to find it & use it). I often feel that I am trying to learn something that cannot be learned, because in the end, I can't control the whole process... the piece itself wants to be what it wants to be and I have to yield. I am not sure I am making any sense...

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    1. I understand perfectly. A painting does take on a life of its own sometime into the process and you go with it. This one is fine, but it isn't the kind of work I want to do; it is just a step closer. I did some growing today with the realization. I was lucky that it was salvageable after I realized I couldn't change direction at the end of the trip. I should have known better.

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  2. Very interesting. I feel writing is the same. You have to resist the tendency to overwrite. You need a sort of looseness sometimes to get the flow that you want.

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    1. What I like about writing is you can go back and weed out the stiffness and ease the flow to get the right rhythm and you don't get dirty. I read what I'm writing aloud, making changes, till it comes trippingly off my tongue like dialogue--not my blog writing of course. That's right off the top of my head. Yesterday, I got dirty editing what I had done too soon after reading what those two women had to say plus the book and looking at all that man's gorgeous work. If I don't have a painterly portrait, I do have a very painterly shirt. :-)

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  3. I just LOVE the sound of trees blowing in the wind, music to my ears....should be able to soothe out any stressed painter. Yes, painting can be very stressful, even though it shouldn't...Wish you a creative day.

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    1. I definitely had a creative day Jane. Today, I might just finish that book and not paint at all if I'm going to be so easily influenced. But I am on a quest to find an interpretation of what I see in life and in photographs that's seemingly effortless. Part of that quest involves exploring what others are doing.

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  4. I have heard it too. I even heard it from the judges on "work of art" who pointed out that a person hadn't put anything of himself into the portrait, that it was technical but lack originality, he had seen it too often before.
    I am no realistic painter. I can be amazed over the skill and how much time is spent on a painting, but for me I rather take a photograph, but that is a matter of personal preference.

    I try to do things personal and I hope that people like it and identify it as mine. I do think personality means that people either love it or hate it, but I rather do that. I think if you ask a lot of people about Picasso, there will be more that don't like it than do.

    I don't think that you do just a copy, but it is a good thing to have in mind, what do I want to express.

    Sorry for rambling. I think you got a healthy process.

    Hugs from Sweden

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    1. Thanks Roger. The use of photographs is an interesting subject. I have a little difficulty getting why the reference photograph isn't considered part of the process when the artist created the photograph--had choreographed the subjects--stand that way,over here, in that light and cock your head this way or that, slouch down a bit in that chair will you please. And once in our camera, we can do a lot more funny stuff with photographs on this computer of ours that is up to us as well. Certainly Steve and Zac is not a big deal portrait. But I did take the photo. I did tell Zac to get closer to his father and lean in. I did accept that he mugged the camera. I did choose to paint that particular mug--just like the photo I took of JD. It had painting written all over it as soon as I saw it. I guess the painting has to be either very painterly (a very loose interpretation of the photograph) or photo realistic, in which case, I must say I would absolutely use a projector. If you want total accuracy, use whatever tools that will give it to you. In the painting of it, the artist is definitely going to push the colors, the light and shadows. That's what artists do. As for originality. That's a sticky wicket. Picasso pushed it over the edge. We all say what a guy, but do we all like it. After fame and fortune, his work was outlandish and sloppy. before it was academic-albeit it extremely well done. Sometimes I wonder if the ism guys weren't just joking around with the art community. Sort of the Emperor's New Clothes, a lot of modern art does seem naked--I always think of Barnet Newman's huge canvases painted red with a half inch stripe of white on one end--or the one that looks to me to be the top of a ping-pong table.

      Now who is rambling on?

      un abrazo back at you.

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  5. Es cierto que hay momentos en los que hay que tomarse tiempo para absorber la información y luego concretarla en el lienzo. Me ha gustado mucho el video. Un abrazo.

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    1. The trees in the woods on the edge of the meadow in my back yard were just blowing in the wind. Yes, we need time to digest information. I should have slept on it. But I had to see what would happen if I tried loosening it up (impatience). The results were nothing good--I had progressed too far into the process to change the approach. Lovely mineral spirits saved the painting from my experimentation, but what a mess. Un abrazo to you too. I'm glad to see you back.

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  6. Linda, you take in SO much information, reading about it almost overwhelms me. It sounds trite, but you WILL paint what you feel.

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    1. We all do, but when we're painting, we must paint only what we see--the world according to Schmid. I agree with that. What I don't agree with is if we're seeing a reference photo and being true to it that we're copying a photo and that's bad when we took the photo for such purposes in the first place. I think we're painting our interpretation of forms that we bothered to photograph. I think we see them differently. I do not see how you can always paint from life; we can't move that fast. Do I really think that Steve and Zac are going to come over everyday and assume that particular pose? Of course not; they have lives too. Painting the landscape outside we have to paint extremely fast just to keep the light that we started out with for it's always changing. So we photograph it to freeze it in our memory. From then on is us with the brush and the paint and the problems of values, drawing, color and edges and our own abilities not to mention our memory. Do we have a photographic memory? Do we remember exactly how everything looked? I don't have that gift. I do have a Nikon.

      As you can tell I'm still tossing these thing around in my head. In the studio, Steve and Zac are being restored and altered to some extent as I scrutinize that photo up close and from far back, while struggling with keeping brushes clean, mixing enough of a color/value and remembering to use my palette knife.

      Now I'm reading the different ways to start an oil painting. I use the first and second the most: 1) line and [color] block in; 2) Mass blocking with one color. There's some more, but I'm reading slowly and weighing words.

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  7. Hello Linda! Also I sometimes I write, it happened today( but also at other times), messages that disappear after ...
    Have a good weekend!

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    1. You too Rita. That happens here often--but I usually find it years later and always find the writing amusing. We grow, we change everyday. What looks good one day, might not the next. What looks bad, looks good down the line. That's how I know you didn't throw your writing away. You used it as a book mark.

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  8. I think it all breaks down to the meaning of art! And I think there are (too?) many meanings - Picasso seemed to paint what he saw and everybody raved ... I never fully got it. I have seen some wonderful pictures criticised for being too photographic.
    All I know is that without photographs (or plans) I couldn't/wouldn't draw. To me there is black and white ...so I can imitate the Hunter's Green you mentioned ... but for other shades of green I must imagine what I see because they can only be white, black or mixtures of both. This is the only way I can describe a system that relies on copying the subject and imagining it at the same time.

    This doesn't help at all ..."Shut up, John!"

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    1. No, We both agree. The camera is an important art tool. I use it to record subjects, to crop what it is I like about them, to evaluate the color values by converting color photos into black and white, to contemplate how I want to handle the subject. Drawing from life only is perhaps a very snobbish opinion? To look down your nose at those of us who do use the camera a lot in our work, is small minded. Strong words I know, but I'm pretty sure the Impressionists would have loved to have had a modern digital 35mm camera at their disposal plus photo shop to stop and play up the light. Photography is an art form in itself. There are photographs I've taken that can stand on their own. I love photography. Plus the people I paint, I don't have access to AND THAT'S WHY I PAINT THEM. They are scattered across the country. They are deceased. Painting them from life is out of the question. The Alla prima only idea is fine for still lifes, landscapes and flowers, but not so for portraiture. I GUESS I'VE MADE UP MY MIND. Hurrah for photography. I, for one, am very grateful for Alhazan's invention of the camera obscura in 1000 AD, which was used primarily for viewing or DRAWING purposes,(Wikipedia). Purists should really think a little harder on this subject, before telling artist to give up this valuable tool.

      As for originality, that might be a scam by art dealers pushing artists to push the envelope to extremes so they have the newest, the latest, the greatest, the most original artwork and artists on display and contracted down in their stables. Art, in the market place, is a business first with a lot of hype attached to it and has artists in a frenzy over entering competitions and winning awards. Originality can't be forced; it just happens.

      Thank you John. You've brought me back to my skeptical self. I really shouldn't read art books; they have always gotten me into trouble. I really just like making it.

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    1. Thanks. After all that, that's all you have to say? I bet...

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  10. 'I'll try tomorrow, without reading a thing', now you're getting somewhere! Read about properties of paint but find out how to use it, to get where you want, yourself....which you are...but you are muddying the waters by reading how other folk do it...I think....I been there, done that, got the t-shirt!

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