Sunday, July 12, 2015

At Home With Myself and Paint

Ellis,  IN PROGRESS,   9" X 12", oil.



As disappointing as this is, I have come to the conclusion that  portrait paintings take me a TAD longer than two hours. In two hours, I am just scratching the surface of what I see when looking as people.  I can get off to a good start and achieve a painting that has potential, but at the end of that second hour, there's always  another hour or more to go to satisfy  my idea of finished--which is determined according to my own needs from painting that particular subject. My usual  road to finish is to paint to the brink of over done and then to haul back a bit for the sake of KISS. I am not satisfied till my painting has a solid sense of strength! Then, I discovered Frank.


My Guys, back on the observation wall, which
is not necessarily a good thing to have.
I don't know how I missed the work of Frank Auerbach all these years. But what a delight it was to stumble across this strong painter who paints familiar subjects (me too)--friends, family, his neighborhood, his interiors-- according to his impressions, his feelings, his responses. The technique he applies is impulsively spontaneous.

"Impulsive," was the word the writer of the article used. The word grabbed me. It hit home--to the core of how I have felt about painting since the beginning. Trying to tame my raw reactions to subjects has been like painting with my hands tied.  At this late date, I've decided to cut those ties, shrug off traditional practices, quit mimicking the giants and be myself with a medium I have loved for six decades.  As for all the talk about finding your own voice, do we ever really lose it, or do we just sit on it while we are taught the shoulds and drowned out by what went before?    
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20 comments:

  1. I think those sentiments are true of life itself. It is only in latter years that you realise that the greatest joys come from the simplest of things. All the cut & thrust of advancing yourself take up a lot of your life ... and then the truth dawns on you.

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    1. Throughout the years I've had these thoughts, always seemed to suspect when it comes to painting, all the lessons and art books were about what other people thought the shoulds should be. When young, we pay close attention. We don't know any better; others must? And a lot of voices from within are overwhelmed and hushed. That's too bad. it's too bad when I picked it up again six years ago, I fell into the same rut, Nice though I've finally decided to climb out.

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  2. Ellis is looking VERY GOOD! I still don't get the two hour bit - is that a self imposed guideline?
    As usual, you raise an interesting question.
    I can tell you from my own experience at art school - I was taught the CRAFT of painting. The technical aspects, but never the way to do the imagery. Manchester City Art Museums had a lot of Pre Raphaelite pieces so I was exposed to a romantic side to art, but the non representational movement was strong and no self respecting art student would paint realism. BUT look at me now...a impressionist romantic!
    Believe it or not, Linda, I met Frank when I was an awestruck art student in England. I asked him what he liked best about his painting and he said,
    "the PAINT". I have never forgotten it. Not the technique, not the subject, just the paint itself.
    Maybe that is why he piled it on?



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    1. As soon as I read this article I stumbled across and saw PAINT and IMPULSIVE, I connected. Of course, I immediately ordered a couple of books on him and watched a YouTube video interview.
      At art school, The College Of Arts and Crafts, I studied sculpture. I liked form, construction, building up. Heros were Michelangelo (of course), but then Nevelson, Hess, Sol Lewitt, the contemporaries. Three dimensional design and build came easily As a way to make a living even though architecture was never a consideration. Odd. I played with paint on the side and drawing was something I had always known how to do. My interest flowed through a number of favorite painters, from Latrec to DeKooning. Loved DeKooning, PAINT and IMPULSIVE was him too. Blogging artists are mostly traditional, so going back to the arts six years ago via starting a blog and taking a look around, I fell in with traditional drawing and painting practices. I did discover these last year's that I have a pension for portraiture, something I didn't know. But I came away from the workshops and the class I took, dissatisfied. There wasn't enough paint and the approach was cautious, not impulsive. As far as the craft of painting I had read Ralph Mayer years ago. Chemistry is important. Now, I just want to paint as I did on the side from work and family: enjoying the PAINT AS MY IMPULSES suggest. I find that method very invigorating. I have no time restrictions in mind. Sharon wanted to try the two hour limit. I did to see if it could be done. It can sometimes, but mostly no. I wasn't satisfied and think it's not for me. When you met Auerbach was he being interviewed, giving a lecture, talking at all about his art? I'd love to hear his take on Art education.

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  3. When I met Frank Auerbach he was an "up and coming" artist having a solo exhibit, and the art school organized a visit. He was not forthcoming with inspirational talk or guidance. Like the two word answer he replied to my question what he liked best - the PAINT.
    I enjoyed reading the analysis of your journey. Thanks for sharing. Some of our inspirations are the same.

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    1. From the little I read about him, he struck me as not an artist who would give anyone any advice or guidance. His paint does all that talking. One of the books I ordered is titled: Frank Auerbach Talks and Paints. It could be revealing. It could be disappointing. Sometimes, however, a single choice of a word tells all--like the writer's choice of 'impulsive.' Thanks for replying.

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  4. I like your Ellis painting.

    Good thoughts on what's the essence of painting, for you.

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    1. I guess it takes this long to come back around to what delighted you about painting in the first place.
      Ellis needs a few more dashes and interplay with shadows and lights, but every corner covered has never been important. Energetic drawing, shadows and lights, depth of space, expression, his and mine is of interest.

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  5. Oh Linda! Ellis looks excellent already! Perfect shadows, Perfect light! And your self portrait is dead on! Start a workshop....I'll go!!!

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    1. A little more on those hands gesturing a point I think, then that's it. I have no idea what he was talking about, but he sure did look serious about maki king a point.

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  6. I await the results of the 'eureka' moment with bated breath. Love Ellis now I see it properly.

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    1. The eureka moment wasn't a moment at all. Every time I took a painting class, I wondered why? Over the years I took a few. Art education gives everyone the impression there's an acceptable way to draw or painty that needs to be learned when all you need is a sharp eye and an obedient hand. I am a little over the top when it comes to color. I'm going to push that. I expect there will be a few if not a lot of stinkers. :-))

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  7. I really love this painting of 'Ellis' in progress! I find the stage it is in right now is wonderful........painterly and impressionistic.

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    1. The hands need more definition then that's it. Thanks Helen. It's a lot rougher than your beautiful watercolors.

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  8. First of all, Ellis looks great! I had to google Frank Auerbach, and I see what you mean. Impulsively spontaneous sounds great to me! It is the best way to ruin a watercolor, haha, but I love it and enjoy it and throw away the result most of the time. :)

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    1. The beauty of his paintings is he didn't trash the ones we have trashed. What painting should be as THEY told us it should be didn't mean a thing. Painting was strictly how he responded to the subject with the medium. I think he is an artist's artist. I got the two books I ordered on him yesterday. I started reading what he had to say (to his regular model) about his painting--he doesn't like interviews or looking at his own work-- but over various painting sessions with this woman, he did talk, and she recorded. Only a little into chapter one, the book promises to be informative and inspirational to me who always thought of painting as an action. When I tried that approach with watercolor, I painted wet into wet, let dry, paint over, layer upon layer for however long it took for the composition too say to me Eureka! Good times often involving the addition of India ink, markers, scrubbing out, pastels or crayons. Occasionally, I shredded what I thought was the ruined painting and then reassembled it--that's when it clicked. Destruction was part of the process. My unorthodox approach was not exactly what was taught in a watercolor class.

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  9. Love this painting of Ellis! I googled Frank Auerbach. Yes, I understand what you are writing about here. I have also taken workshops and classes and came away thinking, well, now I know how THAT person does it (more less, how much can you really absorb in two days). I don't consider any of the classes a total waste of time, however...it all serves to bring you to a point where you'll eventually just be yourself (in a "damn the torpedoes" type of way). I'm looking forward to what you do next!

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    1. No art classes were a total waste of time; they taught us about the materials, the mediums. But there is a time to stop going to classes and just paint by yourself to let yourself out. Workshops and open studio life drawing/painting sessions are most worthwhile. Thirteen week, eight week classes are a waste of time; they cut into valuable studio time, time to succeed and fail on your own. I'm not so sure that Art History classes and books aren't stifling either, yet I have a large collection of books and majored in art history and sculpture in college. I think I might have stumbled into a kindred spirit. Like Auerbach, I am reclusive and stingy with my time except for my sons, grandchildren and beloved--but they can get in the way too. :-))

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  10. A beautiful interesting topic!!!
    I believe it is the most difficult step, after a lot of passion and practice,leave "alien"
      influences culture notions suggestions to return / or to be centered in themselves.
    I think, exactly, by this step a painter, becomes  an artist, in its own way original and unique. Congratulations, my dear Linda!
    Your Ellis portrait is a masterpiece in your unique style! (I love hands unfinished but it is my personal view... you don't listen!)

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    1. I am not going to finish the hands just define them a bit more. I listen Rita! Indeed I's love to read more constructive criticism. I do have a problem with when enough is enough--in other things in life too--like how many jelly beans are enough of a bit of sweetness? I think more than what is recommended on the package. Chips too. ;-))

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