Monday, January 2, 2017

Painting comes out of nowhere

Southwest View
Ever start on a painting and think it's going to be a walk in the park, and then you find out the park is Denali National Park and you're getting dropped off at 18,000 feet?

I had one like that early in December—I repainted every part of it at least three times, and I was beginning to wonder, is this painting? Or trial by brush? Sometimes making a painting is an expression of joy; other times it's a test of my resolve. How stubborn am I?

Then I got inspired to work on one of my half-done book manuscripts, and left it—abandoned it, really—on the easel. Every day after that, I disliked it a little more and got more and more angry that I'd wasted a good 16x20 panel on such a conspicuous failure. The only reason I didn't paint over it at that point was because it was a concept I really wanted to do. So much for that.

Then just after Christmas, I was sketching with my brand new Pitt Pens with brush tips that I got myself for Christmas 😀, and got an idea to do a self-portrait with a plant. I set up my paints again and started painting over it. I blocked in a figure and a plant, and then a bunch of abstract shapes in the background, thinking about how I wanted to rough in the dark-light balance and decide on colors before I started shaping anything. Within an hour of completely relaxed, fun painting, I had a rough composition that I liked very much just the way it was. It didn't look anything like my initial sketch, but so what? I wanted to leave it rough on the figure and background, but wanted to make the plant and pot more defined, adding a shadow to emphasize the idea of bright, sharp light and a defined space. The only change I made after that point was to add the little window to make the top part of the painting as important as the middle and bottom.

I kept remembering what Burridge says, "Don't fall in love with it too soon," but I really was in love with it. I did keep playing with the image in photoshop, to see if I wanted to change the colors or add other elements, but I didn't want to. When I got it to almost final, I showed it to a couple friends and they both liked it. So here it is. It's so completely different from anything I've ever done that I'm still getting used to it. I'm thinking of it as minimalist. My first minimalist painting.

BTW, I really do love my Pitt Pens. I had ordered two small manga sets from Blick, and enjoyed playing with them enough that I decided to make myself a custom set and ordered 25 more colors in the regular brush tip, including a big size "opaque" white pen. It's only semi-opaque, but still quite useful for lightening and adding highlights. You can get very fine lines with the brush tip, or nice 2mm strokes, but if you only want to do fine lines, you can get a few of the colors in a superfine nib. They're $2 each, less in the sets. I bought a small Strathmore 300 Mixed Media Pad and it's perfect for them—no warp, no bleed-through. The only thing about the pens I wish is that they had pale colors in more hues, but that's where the white pen comes in handy. I love having different shades of grays to sketch with, especially trying to do faces.

I hope to do a lot more sketching this year, both to play and to rehabilitate my now very rusty drawing skills.

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