Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A new approach for me: Start With The Whole Painting

Ligularia 3rd Day

I have a Ligularia plant right in front of where I've been sitting painting the barn that's been begging me to paint it since I first started painting outside. Its large lily pad-shaped leaves, thick burgundy-colored stems, and very casual but bright golden yellow flowers give it a lot of character. When I first started my barn sessions, its buds were just about to open, and I've been putting it off—not now, I'm busy—but now I'm done painting the barn for now, and its flowers are fully open, so two days ago I got out my biggest canvas pad, 18x24", and started working on its portrait. The first day I got just a sketch of its form, outlined, and a suggestion of values in the background. The second day I went out and made a conscious decision, because it is a portrait, to fully conceive and paint the background either ahead of or in parallel with developing the image of the plant. I'm tired of trying to paint a good background around a complicated subject.

The second day I roughed in the colors of the leaves, stems and flowers, specifically because I knew I had to make every color I used in the background had to support the portrait of the plant and show it off to its best advantage. As soon as I had a good idea of the greens, browns, and mauves that I was going to use for the Ligularia, I started experimenting with the background, roughing in and trying different colors and forms for the background. After that session's work I took this photo:
Ligularia 2nd Day

Most of the colors and shapes are the actual background that I see from my painting viewpoint, but as I was picking and choosing what I was going to include and what I wasn't, a fully formed thought came into my head:

"You don't have to use the colors that things actually are."

In other words, if a deep purple-brown worked better in the area where I wanted to paint one of my mugho-pines-on-a-stick, then it was not only okay, but perfect for me to paint that little pine in shades of deep purple brown, and if the huge green mass of Pineapple Sage doesn't work, it's perfect for me to make it shades of gold. In other words, every single element of this painting must work according to the theme and colors of the finished painting. I acknowledge that I've been getting reminded of this idea for years and years, and yet this is the first time I'm consciously choosing to keep it in mind the whole time I'm working on this painting.

Part of the reason I decided to do this is because every day I'm out there we get one day closer to the cold, wet, rainy season, when I won't have these lovely comfortable temperatures, soft breezes, and brilliant Oregon summer sunlight. I know there are artists who paint outside when it's raining and cold, but I'm not one of them, and I rather doubt I ever will be.

Another principle that I've bought into mentally that I wanted to put into practice was to paint over everything I don't like at the start of each session. I never saw the use of this until I watched the video "Mystery of Picasso", where I learned how much he reworked his paintings while he was working on them, and realized how much more freedom that gives you to try different ideas while you're working.

Today (Day 3) I spent most of the Ligularia session correcting things from the second day that I didn't care for, fixing leaves and where the flowers are. I also worked on the stems, and added the foliage of the different-shade-of-yellowish-green double file Viburnum which actually sits right behind the Ligularia. I didn't like the light colors predominating in the background, and I wanted to see if I could make the dominant color of the whole painting these two tones of green, without having them be confusing or conflicting.

I have a feeling this painting is going to take me several sessions, so I wanted to post what happens while I'm trying this approach to painting.

No comments:

Post a Comment