Friday, February 26, 2010

Forsythia and Pussy Willows

Want to beat the winter doldrums? Painting a bright bouquet really helps.

Spring Colors 8x10
Acrylic on paper

I've been finding that trying to change my approach to painting, even just to try approaching painting in a different way, is more complicated than I ever thought it would be. After spending many hours admiring the abstract compositions of Claire Harrigan, I was very curious to see if I could come up with a loose, colorful background that would complement the foreground subject and add design elements that contribute to the overall composition. To make a long story short, even after I had arrived at a color scheme I liked, it took me four different passes to come up with an arrangement I was happy with. It went through stages of randomness for the first two passes, and then I observed a bit of a pattern emerging and I began trying to develop it. As the pattern of lights and darks moved around, I noticed the different effects it was having on the flowers and vase, which I had already largely painted in. I also realized that I wanted to not worry at all whether the background shapes actually looked like anything, as long as they made a pleasing design. The fourth pass gave me a background that I felt supported the design of the bouquet and added some interest on its own.

But it wasn't fun painting around the blossoms on all four of the passes, so I thought the next time I would at least try to develop a background I liked before I started work on the subject. Here's the first pass:

Ultimately it's going to be a patio in a garden. I'll be developing it over the next few days, and will add the new versions to this post. I don't know what will happen, but I hope it will be interesting.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Cultivating the Unexpected

I'm snuggled in under my heated plush throw and following links on Ruth Armitage's blog, and just found a wonderful example of a series. It happens to be on a theme I really love—rivers. It's the River Series by Casey Klahn. The individual works are all deliciously unique in composition, and a great lesson on how much variety you can achieve within a constricted framework.

I suspect there is no end to creativity. If you try to squeeze it from one direction, it just spills out in different ways to the other. The more you try to focus it down to one idea, the more variety you find popping up within that smaller idea. If you think about just the obvious elements of a painting, it's not hard to see how by varying just one or two things, you could get dozens of variations:

1. Subject idea
2. Overall design
3. Dominant colors
4. Emotional content
5. Painting style

You could also use a series to try on different styles. Pick a favorite photo or painting of yours and try painting it as say, five of your favorite artists. Pick artists with styles very different from yours, and different from each other.

Something I'm doing right now with my sketches is playing with other styles, incorporating lines by drawing with the brush on top of my painting, copying the color schemes others use, and incorporating abstract blocks of color in otherwise representational paintings. So far, they haven't been successful enough to share, but they are stretching my brain and I find myself thinking of approaching my compositions in ways I never have before. They're making me focus more on the painting as a whole, and less on the subject. I touched on this idea in "The reference and the subject", on my desire to do less copying and more innovating. It's tough to innovate when you don't know how to come up with different ideas. When I feel like I'm stuck in a rut, I want to be able to remember that there are different languages of visual expression, and that I know a few words in some of them. The other thing I want to always remember is that I can combine those words in any way I want, as long as it makes something I like.