If you read my post from last week, you know that I started taking an abstract painting class. Part of the class includes critique, so students can bring in pieces that they are working on for feedback from the teacher. Also, at the end of the class we all got together and critiqued each other’s work.
It was a very helpful process especially to be able to bring my work and say “what does this need.” Fortunately, the piece that was on my post last week got good feedback from the teacher.
She said it was almost finished and just need two swipes of thicker paint, almost like an impasto. I like to paint thickly especially with my palette knife. I am now trying a very large palette knife about 2 1/2 inches wide and 6 inches long. Needless to say, it can cover a lot of canvas.
She suggested that it be in the same color as what was already on the canvas. That was not too difficult a challenge except mixing paint to the exact color as I did several days previously, always takes patience.
I also started a new painting in class that I almost completely painted over once I got home. I was trying to follow her discussion and suggestions without listening to how I wanted to paint.
Next week, I think that I can incorporate her suggestions and still stay true to myself.
As I was studying this painting, deciding if it was done and trying to think of a title, I had an interesting experience. I felt pulled into the painting. I wanted to walk through the grass and see the Irish Atlantic Ocean that I imagined was on the other side. I felt like walking into a painting.
I am sure I have had this experience before with one of my paintings, but I couldn’t remember one that was so compelling to me. I have certainly had similar feelings with other paintings that I have seen. I once found a painting at the Louvre that was so captivating to me that I stood in front of it for 15 minutes.
I think that imagining walking into a painting somehow is related to the general wanderlust I am feeling at this time. It is possible that I need to go back to Ireland—or another Celtic place.
On the practical side of this painting, I approached it differently than my other Irish paintings. I didn’t put any medium on the canvas except black gesso. Previously for added texture, I used some type of molding paste on the others before I painted.
This time the painting had little texture except for paint when it was finished. Since I like texture, I applied an extra heavy gloss gel to the canvas and roughed it up to give the kind of texture that I was looking for. I like the effects although they can’t really be seen in the photograph.
I haven’t used heavy gloss gel much before. It was an experiment. When it is applied it looks like it is going to dry white. However, regardless of how thickly it is applied, it dries totally clear. The gel I was using was Liquitex Super Heavy gloss gel. I like the look and may try it again from time to time.
When I was in California last summer doing an artist residency I was called a tonalist painter for the first time. My work had never been referred to that way before and I recognized what association was being made.
I very frequently will tone down my colors with grays or sometimes with a color’s complement. For example, I don’t like phthalo blue by itself, but I do like it with some value of gray. Here is an example of a painting that I just finished.
Traditionally, tonalism (1880-1915) involved creating a painting permeated by a dominant tone and in a limited color scheme. Often, at least historically, painters worked mostly in earth colors so black would have been a common color on their palettes.
In tonalism, the palette is minimal, characterized by warm hues of brown, soft greens, gauzy yellows and muted grays.
Here is an example of a painting by the tonalist artist James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903.)
According to Stapleton Kearns, “Usually the goal of tonalist painting is the production of a mood in a painting rather than the representation of any actual place. The color, design and the mood were the subject rather than a unique and spectacular location.”
Many of my paintings are similar in color to a traditional tonal style.
• I eliminate details for broader brushstrokes and subtle transitions of tone.
• Frequently I use a neutral palette-mainly cool colors: green, blue, mauve, violent, grays, to produce similar tones.
• I also sometimes like high horizons to bring focus to the foreground.
• I like to use glazing techniques, layering thin layers of color over underlying colors
• I like to paint wet on wet.
• I like to start with a warm undertone even if I use black gesso and then layer cool overtones to achieve some tension of color.
• I like the idea of the “lost edge” technique which results in flow of color and atmospheric quality.
• I don’t like to paint specific, recognizable locations, but rather my impressions of a place or scene.
Will I continue to paint in this style? It appears that for my Ireland series I will. After that who knows.
I finished a painting this week that I have been working on for a while. It has had many lives. Here is some the history of a painting.
As some of you know, I sometimes think that I am finished with a painting and feel comfortable about presenting it to the world, or whoever is looking at my work.
A few weeks ago I wrote a post about a small study I did for a larger piece. I liked the way it looked and proceeded to start a somewhat large 24×30-inch canvas inspired by the small painting.
I finished it and I thought it was interesting. I displayed it. I lived with it about two weeks and then I started to analyze why it was not making me happy. The problem was then glaring. What were all of the rose forms at the bottom of the painting and why did it look so stiff and out of sync with the series it belonged to?
I knew something was going to have to change in a big way—the bottom of the painting. I studied it again and decided that the middle of the painting had some interesting aspects and I liked the colors that I had used.
So what to do? Turn it upside down? That’s what I did. I added some yellow accents. I then painted over the rose color which was at the top with a gray-blue. I didn’t like that and by now I had so much paint on that section of the canvas that the texture looked out of place.
I was not going to give up. I called on the assistance of an art lover who had much more arm muscle than me to sand down the top of the painting. He did a great job and now I had a smooth surface again.
Now what color to paint the sky? This time I choose a tint of Naples yellow and created a transparent glaze with a gloss medium. I painted the sky letting the gloss dry for a day before adding a second and third layer of paint. By then about five days had gone by.
A few days ago I decided the yellow in the middle made the painting too cool so I dragged some red oxide chalk over the yellow, wiped most of it off, and sealed it with gloss medium. Finished!
I have started on my next painting which looks like it goes with the series. I will see how it progresses.
I am a romantic painter. I have found definitions of “romantic” such as a sensibility; primitivism; love of nature; sympathetic interest in the past, especially the medieval; mysticism; individualism.
I am also sentimental. Webster defines someone who is sentimental as a person excessively prone to feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia.
That brings me to nostalgia. I am nostalgic and find myself attracted to the Irish notion of a gentle melancholy that permeates life. While I reflect on Ireland and my Irish paintings, I am also thinking about why I am drawn to certain subjects, places, or ideas.
Such thoughts drew me to one of the first paintings that I ever did. I was on a painting retreat in France with no experience at all. Each day we would be driven to some exquisite location to paint. We would arrive and scatter, painting whatever we were drawn to. One could have chosen a lovely view, goats, a forest and other people.
I wandered around and found a three story 19th century home that was in ruins. What happened to this house, I wondered. Why didn’t this seemingly once lovely place undergo repairs? What was its story? Of course, that was what I decided to paint.
I have learned that I am drawn to emotions and events that I perceive may exist or have existed. That is one reason that I am drawn to Ireland and spent so many years in France. I was and am enchanted by the history, the way people lived, the myths, the beauty of both structures and raw nature.
I think that the classical definition of all of the above can be summarized to this description:
The Romantic embodied “a new and restless spirit, seeking to burst through old and cramping forms, a nervous preoccupation with perpetually changing inner states of consciousness, a longing for the unbounded and the indefinable, for perpetual movement and change, an effort to return to the forgotten sources of life, a passionate individual effort at self-assertion, a search after means of expressing an unappeasable yearning for unattainable goals.
I especially like the part about unappeasable yearning for unattainable goals. If I ever get a clear idea of what those goals are, I will let you know.
Since I returned from Ireland I been painting from imagination. I keep looking at photos of the trip, and they are lovely, but they are not really inspiring me to use one for a subject for a painting.
I seem to be drawn to scenes, memories, senses and sensations from the trip. I see colors in my mind and I see shapes and images. Sometimes I just see layers of images that I can’t separate.
Since the trip, although my paintings are abstract landscape paintings, my first three paintings contained scenes or some shapes that were easily recognizable like a cliff or an ocean setting. This time I wanted to do something different.
I usually draw very little before I paint. I didn’t draw at all on this painting. It developed by first deciding on my palette, preparing a canvas with black gesso and then when that dried, I just started letting shapes and colors come from my imagination.
I was also using Golden Open gloss medium mixed with paint which allowed me to drag one color into another before they dried to form bands of color. In other words I was painting wet-on-wet.
I started at the bottom with darker blues and greens and then worked my way to the top letting the colors become lighter as I ascended. What a fun way to paint! I just kept a vision of Ireland in my mind. The memories and feelings both consciously and unconsciously informed what I was painting.
I was painting in a new way and it felt very creative. In my next painting that I will start on Monday, I will try it again—painting from imagination.
I like this quote that I found about creativity:
“Even those of us not in explicitly creative fields must come up with new ideas and insights in order to move ahead. How can we shake up the way we think? Creativity has been pegged to conducive environments, perfect collaborators, personality traits, serendipity, and even spiritual muses. While research psychologists are interested in increasing innovative thinking, clinical psychologists sometimes encourage patients to use artistic expression as a way to confront difficult feelings.”
Although I have painted many scenes that include lakes and rivers, I have painted very few seascapes or paintings that included the sea. When I was in Ireland, I spent many hours looking at various views of the Atlantic Ocean. In the back of my mind I was frequently thinking about painting a seascape.
Most were from high cliffs looking down at crashing waves hurling themselves into caves and onto rocks. There were a few times when I was on a lovely beach or standing on a small hill looking at a quiet tide.
Regardless of the location, I was fascinated by the continually-varying mood of the water and its great force. I was also intrigued by the ever-changing colors of the sea.
Although I experienced little rain while I was there, I was impressed by the moody skies and how the grey clouds affected the water. Sometimes there was no difference between the colors in the skies and on the water. Sometimes both contained light and dark greys, violets, blues and greens.
Since I love to play with color, it was my goal in this painting to capture all of the different grays of the sky and water and the vibrancy of the surrounding landscape. The entire painting has many layers of color from bright and light to dark and somber in both the seascape and landscape.
I would love your critique.
Do creativity and travel change how I paint? As I have been working on the second painting of my Ireland series, I keep thinking about how traveling to places away from home influences my work.
That certainly was the case for me for years in France. Whenever I was there, I not only was affected by the scenery, I was also influenced by the age of the country, the people, the food, the quiet country roads and the lovely village in which I worked.
Spending a month in California at an artist residency last year allowed me to experience living in an old farmhouse in the middle of a vineyard and seeing how old, gnarled vines tangled around each other.
I have also painted a short time in Italy and Chicago. So I ask myself, have all of these experiences actually changed the way I paint and the way I see the world?
It is something for me to ponder since I first started painting in the southwest of France. After I came home, I painted what was in my environment or from photos in a painting class. At that time I was just trying to learn to paint.
Not long ago I read that “In recent years, psychologists and neuroscientists have begun examining more closely what many people have already learned anecdotally: that spending time abroad may have the potential to affect mental change.”
Which brings me back to Ireland. I love France, but it doesn’t seem to have the spiritual punch for me that Ireland does. I am not really sure yet what that means.
I didn’t paint in Ireland, so I am relying on my memories and impressions for subject matter. I haven’t painted from photos. It is a very rural country. It is perfect for painting abstract landscapes. But creating a lovely landscape painting is not how or why I paint.
I paint in order to express the feelings inside me of something that inspires me. This series has a different feeling for me, but I can’t tell you why yet.
Here is a quote that I came across today by Miriam Beard about creativity and travel.
“Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living“
Painting series is something I started doing about 5 years ago. It took me a long time to realize the significance of doing a series instead of random subjects that appealed to me.
Before that, in my mind I was painting series because I was painting landscapes. All different kinds of landscapes with different colors, sizes and sometimes style.
I have learned that if you make art for yourself and no one else, then you can paint whatever you want. If you make art to sell or gain the attention of collectors or galleries and you’re interested in having people appreciate and understand what you are trying to convey, it is better to let others see where your attention lies.
According to Alan Bamberger at Art Business.com, “the easiest way to do that is to work in series– to create unified, cohesive, coherent, related bodies of work. Many artists aren’t fully aware of the advantages to creating multiple works of art around the same idea, theme, philosophy, concept, topic or subject matter. Instead they produce what I call “onesies.”
I have learned that painting series is a way of exploring several different variations of an idea or theme. There are many benefits to creating a group of similar-styled artworks. Related paintings look a lot better on a website or in an exhibit rather than a mixture of different looking artworks. I did my first painting of Ireland last week and it was posted on my last post. Above is another study I just did for my second painting in the series.
However, it can also be challenging to work in a series. I started a series several months ago, sold one, painted a second and then went to Ireland which completely consumed all of my attention. I want to work on a series of Ireland. So now I have one painting that I did for a previous series that goes with nothing. I think that is the nature of creativity. Our attentions can change.
But I have made a commitment to myself to finish my Ireland series. I have never felt as strongly about a series. It will be interesting to me to see how many I will do.