Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Catching Oopses

Voice of Autumn is an acrylic work I finished the other day. The idea originated a couple of years ago while I was playing in Photoshop with an image of an abstract fountain design I was contemplating and a picture I had taken in a grove of trees. When I composited the two together and applied some filters, the head of a woman appeared! I've wanted to do something with it all this time, and finally decided to see if I could make a painting out of it. This one is on paper, 12"x 20". It's entered in the North Clackamas Arts Guild show Oct. 10-12 in Milwaukie.

The funny thing with this one was that when I first viewed the small photo I'd taken of it, it looked like a woman's head with a giant white blobby hat on top of it. I hadn't seen that at all looking at the painting full-sized, and neither had my painting group. I had to do a little editing of the river form to make it look more like a river and less like a hat blob. That was a good reminder to me of the necessity of checking different views of a painting—from a distance, reversed in a mirror—before it gets released to the public. I've caught many imbalances, distortions and funny shapes looking at mirror images, especially on human figures. For some reason things will read fine in the orientation in which we created them, yet look totally goofy when the image is flipped. I think it's especially important that a viewer can make out the content of a painting even when it appears small or distant. Looking at your painting at different sizes can help you see weaknesses in composition that might be camouflaged by the details. Lately I've taken to looking at my work in very dim light, where I can only see the values. That tells me if I'm getting the dark-light contrasts, and range of values I want from it. And if I like the pattern of darks, the shapes and arrangement, I know I'll like the painting.

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