Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Lessons from the imagination

This was another interesting journey into the unknown. My intent was a loose floral sketch in a new color scheme with a dark background, and to start without drawing, make color blobs and see what developed. I started with mahogany—blackened red—for the dark upper background and instead of the complement of green, I chose a split complement of yellow-green and blue-green. When I went looking for other colors for accents, I added yellow-orange and a grayed blue-violet to complete the harmony.

As much as I was enjoying the way the colors played together, it chafed me that I had chosen such an unrealistic color for the flowers. There are many kinds of green flowers, but none like these. But instead of restarting I chose to stay with it and see if I could make another interesting composition out of it, as an experiment, to prove to myself that reality is not necessary to make an eye-catching painting.

In my last painting it seemed that a contrasty light-dark composition was what attracted my eye most strongly, and I wanted to test that in a different set of colors. Whenever I got stuck wondering what I wanted from this painting, I knew it would have been easier and quicker to copy an image I already had. Because I couldn't do that here, I had to let my imagination guide me. But, if you want to grow a muscle, the best way is to use it, so I chose to paint what did come out, and it was these giant mutant primulas.

The hardest part on this one was creating the light-dark pattern from my imagination—I don't seem to have any facility for that at this point, and that's one of my big motivators to do all these sketches. I went through several stages of moving the light areas around, shrinking them and growing them. When there was too much light, the painting lost its center and looked like a less interesting piece of a larger painting. I had to surround the flowers with dark in order to keep them inside the frame.

I also wanted to play with outlining, as that seemed another way to draw attention to particular elements of a painting, to be a substitute for detail. I can tell that it definitely works for that, just as shadows do. But here, it was really too much until I strengthened the lines on all the stems, and outlined the orange flowers in a less dramatic color.

This is why I'm sketching—to learn all these lessons. Now I have more ideas to play with as I'm working out my next compositions.

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