Monday, November 3, 2014

Priming with texture

Firs at Hoyt Arboretum
I tried something different for a forest scene I've been wanting to paint. It's a photo of a douglas fir grove at Hoyt Arboretum, and I was looking for a new approach because I'm not very satisfied with the paintings I've been getting recently. It happened that a couple years ago I accidentally ordered a 5oz tube of red oxide acrylic, which is twice the size of a standard sized tube. I really want to use it up, so I primed a panel with it, but instead of brushing it on I used my knife, and for no reason in particular used the knife to draw the significant outline of the scene in the wet paint. I put so much paint on it that it took overnight to dry. When I started painting on it the next day I quickly realized I could use a lot less paint because of that priming, and I worked fairly quickly just blocking in some general colors, and using sweeping strokes that were vaguely suggestive of typical fir branches. I had several different colors of green already mixed from my other leaf paintings, it all went pretty quickly.

When I stopped to take a look at it, it looked more than half done. I got lucky with the highlight brush strokes on the ground, but wasn't so lucky with the ones on the tree trunks, so I had to go in today and paint over them. Clearly, there's a lot to getting those lucky strokes to happen, instead of the unlucky ones. But I'm thinking that's what I should really be working on.

I have to admit that I really liked painting on the knife texture of the primer. It reminded me a lot of the texture I get with the ink on paper paintings. I think the texture marks and what they do to the paint on top of them is as useful an element as any paint stroke. They can add energy and visual depth to a work. And they're an encouragement not to add a lot of unnecessary detail.

I like the idea of combining painting with three-dimensional effects; I don't have a problem with combining different forms and techniques of art. It's all art, after all. Like any other technique, physical texture can either support the impact of the painting, or completely overwhelm it and turn the whole thing into a bad joke. Sort of like my famous chocolate covered tortilla strips. Fortunately, most bad paintings are small enough to be safely and legally disposed of, unlike bad architecture.

On the other side of things, I finally finished the third Villa Catalana painting. I didn't do any of this on site, it was all studio work. There is at least one more image from there that I want to paint, but later.

Young Vineyard And Pond

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