Saturday, July 30, 2016

"Admiration" Process and Progress Shots

                Recently I read an article by an artist who was wondering if it's a mistake for artists to post work in progress shots of their artwork. His feeling was that it was somehow taking away some of the mystery of the work and possibly devaluing it by too much exposure. I'm not necessarily the biggest fan of the social media age, but one of the best things to come of all of this, is the glimpse into the studios and working habits of artists that I admire but will never get a chance to meet. I was able to introduce my work and get accepted into a new gallery, and this came about entirely through social media. So here's a look into the creation of one of my latest, "Admiration", oil on panel, 16" x 20".
               My initial concept for this painting was to show how our vision and perceptions of the world around us has been filtered through technology and how eventually we have to bring it back to looking at nature if we want to remove the scales from our eyes. How many times will a realist painter have to hear the compliment that it looks just like a photograph, when what they should be hearing is that it looks perfectly natural! I wanted to paint this one using daylight to add another "natural" element to my concept. Once I had set up the vase of flowers with the wooden bowl, I began to look for other circular forms and shapes to add to the composition. I had recently been talking with some students about the apocryphal story of how Giotto submitted a drawing of a circle to the Pope when he asked for a sample of his work, and how Rembrandt included two circles in the background of his self portrait, as if to say "I'm twice as good as Giotto". Once I added the wooden pulley, and silver bowl, the painting really began to take on a mind of it's own (yes sometimes that really does happen, it's not just artist b.s.) I start my making a careful drawing on paper, sized to the canvas, which I transfer using conte crayon on the back of the drawing. I used to save every drawing that I made, thinking I would need them for the eventual retrospective I was going to have, but my studio is small and I just can't store them, so now I use the originals and don't have to deal with the idiots at the copy center. Here's a shot of the transfer with a wipeout using thinned down raw umber. My wipeouts are kept fairly simple; two values. My theory is that if the painting doesn't grab me with a two value structure, it's not going to grab me with twenty.
                My next step is to make a color wash. Most artists thin their paint way down so that it appears almost like a watercolor. I put my paint on thin, but more opaque than a watercolor. I try to get it as much "like" in the color wash pass as I can, so that I can get it even more "like" in the finishing pass. I got this idea from reading Solomon J. Solomon and a workshop I took with Douglas Flynt. I used to make color studies for each painting, and I probably still should, but I've got a lot of ideas in my head, and I'm no "spring chicken" if you get my drift. I paint the color wash very carefully moving from form to form, usually starting with the center of interest and fanning out form there. Here's a shot of the color wash in progress.
          Once the color wash is dry it's time for deja-vu all over again (thanks Yogi Berra). I repaint every part of the painting exactly as I did it the first time, except now I'm noticing some things I didn't pick up on before, and I'm thickening up the lights a bit. My goal is to stay with each form, in a Zen like manner, until I'm completely satisfied, working wet into wet. I don't leave myself a back door option of fixing it later. I will occasionally repaint an area, but I never find it to be as satisfying as getting it right the first time. It loses some of the freshness and snappy brush work! I've always worked this way, even before studying at an atelier, and just assumed I was doing it wrong. Now I  don't care, this is how I paint, take it or leave it. Below is a shot of the final painting. This is one of those rare instances where the painting comes close to my initial concept. Let's face it, no painting is ever going to be as vivid as that initial bolt of lightning when an idea just pops into your head and you see it clear as day for one fleeting second. I guess that's the windmill that keeps me coming back.