Thursday, September 29, 2016

You don't have to stop working on it until you like it

I've had a floral I started many months ago that no matter what I tried, it never got better, so this morning I picked a new color scheme of greens and reds and started painting over it. I blocked in the main colors and the focal point, and then started defining the shapes. After getting that far, I was right back into my old bad habit—thinking about what would make it best instead of just painting! Arggh! So I mixed up more hues and just kept going, minding the color balance and overall balance as best I could until it seemed pretty pleasing and was still nice and loose. I took a photo of it and thought, wow, that was quick! I even posted it on my blog. But the more I looked at it, the more unbalanced it looked, so I deleted the post and the next morning went back to work on it. When it looked better I stopped again, but knew that I'd better let it sit, and before long I realized I wasn't happy with the shape of the green vase. So today—the third day of working on it—I repainted the vase and the area around it—this looser style really makes it easier to repaint areas.

All the over-painting I did gave it a nice texture. My only complaint was that I seemed to be wasting more paint as I almost always mixed too much for the few brushstrokes I made. But I'm way happier with this than any other floral I've ever done and hoping I can keep loosening up.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Painting from the imagination

Blue and Orange
I've been practicing creating paintings without any references or preliminary designs. I wanted to try both a floral and a figure painting. I chose simple color schemes and just started drawing on the canvases with a paintbrush, sketching rough outlines and then blocking in the colors. I intended to work loosely, and wanted to see how lively I could make each painting.

After painting from photographs for so many years, I'm excited to see what images I can come up with just by working first and thinking after.

The vase and flowers came together really quickly, and the only repainting I've done is to balance the pattern of flowers and add bits of the accent colors.

Out Of The Rain
The figure painting took several days, and while I liked the design and general color scheme immediately, I had trouble making it interesting enough for its large 16"x20" size. I tried several tricks from Robert Burridge's website videos, and each one of them was very useful. The first one was using alcohol in the foreground to create the splash effect. But I still had a flat, featureless background where I wanted to add texture and interest without adding any detail. I found it impossible to imagine a satisfactory pattern, so I got out a soft pastel and just scribbled a looping random pattern of circles over the whole painting. I took different shades of pale yellows and oranges and just filled in the circles to look like vague and maybe blurred light sources. It was simple to remove (with a wet paper towel) or paint over the remaining pastel lines that I chose not to use. I've never used pastel on a canvas before, but I'll certainly do it again. In fact, I'm looking forward to playing with it a lot more.

I did wonder why it was so quick and easy to paint the background on the flowers and so hard for me to figure out what to do on the figures. On the flowers, I knew I wanted a gradation from light to dark,  and instinctively threw on a bit of violet with the blue, and those two things provided enough variation in the proportionally smaller background. But with the figures, there's a lot more background, and though I put in a range of colors at the beginning—almost white to shades of yellow and pale orange—it just wasn't adding enough to the design. The only idea I had was of building lights, but that was more detail than I wanted. When I decided to try the pastel to generate a pattern, circles were simply the first thing I thought of, and as I drew them, I could see how they supported the feel I wanted, that it was really all about the figures. I didn't need to imply direction or movement or any other objects, I just wanted a supportive pattern. And that's what happened.

I think the point is that any painting can present challenges along the way, and it isn't always easy to come up with solutions. The more things you try, the more ideas you're going to generate, and trying things generates ideas much more quickly than thinking.

The last trick I used was streaking with a cheap decorator's brush to create the effect of rain falling.

I've really profited from Burridge's videos. You can find them HERE.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Painting without thinking

Dog Made Of Sunlight
I wanted to paint some dogs but don't have any models, so I decided to paint an imaginary dog, and while doing it I would practice painting intuitively, letting the work proceed without me getting in the way. I had been looking at pictures of greyhounds because I think they're beautiful, and made a small paint sketch of a greyhound sitting in front of a big full moon, and figured out how I might create the textures I wanted in the painting. I decided that was a Moon Dog, and I needed to also make a Sun Dog. I sketched out a dog that was sort of like a friend's Corgi, and I wanted him to look like he was made of sunlight.

This was a really relaxed, fun painting to do. I was able to just paint without thinking about what I was doing, or what I wanted the painting to look like. In essence, I was trying to not think about the painting at all, but just to allow my actions to come from a place separate from thought—maybe from the will, or the subconscious—somewhere where I couldn't worry about it, or do anything but watch and enjoy the colors, get the right paint on the brush and put the right amount of the right color in the right place on the canvas. What I did allow myself to do was to evaluate the results, and if I liked them, I left them, and when I didn't like them, I reworked them until I did.

I've been telling myself for a long time that I need to stop thinking while I'm painting, but recently while working on a landscape, I discovered that if I focused my attention on my hands and on observing what they did, I could shut off the thinking part of my mind. It may seem silly, but it was the trick I needed to let my hands just paint without me trying to direct them. The magic part of doing this is that painting becomes relaxing and stress free as long as I keep working. Frequently, I'll come to a point where I stop working and take a minute, but like as not I'll pick the brush back up and go right back to work on some other bit. It might be the same thing I'm doing when I meditate—shutting off the plotting, planning, worrying mind, and just observing.

Frequently, the colors and the patterns I make don't make sense to me at first, and I can't predict the outcome, or tell if it will evolve into the idea I had in my head before I started. More than once I thought, what a stupid idea to paint an imaginary dog! Who would every buy such a painting! But while I had the brush in my hand, while I was mixing colors and slowly building up each part until it began to look both unique and finished, I totally enjoyed the process. There was no worrying while I was painting, just playing without thinking.

The color scheme on this one was red-violet, blue-violet, and yellow-orange. Very fun to play with.