Thursday, June 19, 2014

Here come the barns

I'm finally getting to all the barn photos I've taken since last fall. I decided to just try quick workups on paper of as many of them as I can get done, just for practice. As usual, I'm mostly trying to be loose and not get hung up on detail, but just have fun. Many of the photos were taken in pretty soggy weather—and one even when it was snowing—so I've made adjustments in a few. But what the heck, I'm not doing a documentary, I'm just painting. A few of them did have blue buildings, though, which was fun.

I started with the one I thought was hardest, and it went down surprisingly easily. I was expecting the tree to give me more trouble, but it didn't.

This red barn was probably the crappiest photo I had, but parts of it are okay. I think that the longer I look at this one, the more things I'll see that I should have done differently. For instance, the sharp line around the rectangle of plants on the right of the tree trunk that really attracts too much attention because it's so sharp. Also the lopsided look of the front tree that really was that way, but just looks awkward in the painting.

The third one came out really simple.

In fact, when I stopped, I thought, this is too simple—I've gone too far to the simplistic side, and I really need to push the pendulum back a bit. But then I thought, no, I need to just try and stay here a little while, and get used to working more simplistically, until I really get the feel of it. It's hard to give up putting in too much detail—I want to make sure I'm cured.

I'm thinking that we naturally notice and remember the small details and the sharp lines just because those are the things that attract our attention, and giving them most of our attention keeps us from seeing the overall composition and how the bigger shapes and forms of things relate to each other.

In painting, focus on forms or details or both becomes part of the painter's style, and paintings that are all detail or all simplicity can both be successful with viewers. But whatever the style, it all has to work together within a painting; it has to be coherent at some level that the viewer can both grasp and enjoy.

For myself, I love the precise mathematical detail of physical nature, but I don't like it in paintings. I love details in photographs, and I want photographs to show me those details. In paintings, I want shapes and forms that relate to each other, layers of complex colors, and rich textures that evoke the impression of details that aren't really there. I agree that the mind creates details in an image it understands, when they're not actually in the image. I'm especially interested in paintings that evoke a feeling or emotional response, and details in paintings just don't do that for me, even though details in real life fill me with awe, respect and love for the cosmos.

I've still got another dozen or so old barns and houses. More to come!

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