Okay, I think I finished Angel 2. I added more tints for some iridescence, and got the glow the way I like it. I started the Angel 3 canvas, an 11x14 this time, and maybe a tiny bit more "traditional" looking, but not much.
I have long coveted the brush stroke skills of John Singer Sargent, as well as Emily Carr, Van Gogh, and a lot of other painters. My favorite classic paintings are the ones from when the application of the paint became part of the painting. I remember descriptions in the first painting books I read, about how to make your brush strokes disappear, and until I discovered the moderns, I thought that was the ideal. So when I began to admire skillful strokes, I had never thought about how I could emulate them, and when I did wonder if I could, I had no idea how to try.
Then this morning as I started painting, I had this thought: Draw with your brush. (Duh.)
I have a tendency to just smear the paint on, with my only goal being to get it into the desired shape and opaqueness. But today, it occurred to me that every brush stroke should be an intelligent mark—it should convey something about the subject or the subject's surface, just as a line on a drawing does. It should help describe not just the color and outline, but the energy, texture, shininess or darkness, and say something about the emotion or feeling of the painting. And if it doesn't tell you anything, then put some thought into what you want it to do before you put it down.
One of the things I took away from my favorite Sargent paintings is how few brush strokes he appeared to be using. He didn't overload his paintings with information. There were the bare facts of subject—color, light, general shape—and then there were only as many carefully placed, artful strokes, and little blobs as were needed to tell you everything you need to know about that subject in order to understand and relate to it.
I think true brilliance in any communication endeavor is to get across what you want to as directly and succinctly as possible. Brevity is more than the essence of wit, it's being clear about what you want to express. The things you don't say are equally as important as the things you do.
So, as I put the first paint on the new one, I kept reminding myself—no good habit comes easily—to use the important brushstrokes as a way to define my subject, and for now, to use every brushstroke as practice drawing. I'll have to see how that works out, but it's definitely something I've never done before.