Saturday, December 24, 2011

What Makes A Persons Art?

Daisies in Grand Teton National Park
I started painting in oils about four or so years ago. I was very uneasy with oils since my first attempts, by myself, usually ended up with me making a great deal of "mud." Mud being how you made a mess by putting all the colors together as you tried to paint a scene.

I had used acrylics but could not get the kind of depth I wanted. Watercolors were interesting and in fact I had used them for years. In watercolor you go from light to dark. Oils demand that you go from dark to light. It sounds odd but it does work.

Using an underpainting in acrylic...magenta in fact, was an accident. My first teacher loved early California impressionists and that was the color (in oil) they used. It is an amazing color to use and now and then I use it still. I bought a tube of magenta and failed to notice it was acrylic. A fellow student, herself far more skilled with watercolor, said go ahead use it. It won't hurt the oils at all. So I did the under paintings in magenta acrylic paint and realized the oils on top didn't care, the color could peak through in all its glory and the colors were not affected in any way. No mud. ALL of my paintings now are under painted in acrylic paint.

I painted but was never satisfied and struggled through that first session. I was learning two things at once...painting landscapes something I had always avoided, and using oil paints.

By the second session I had mastered not making mud and could now and then even paint a decent tree. It wasn't easy because I tried to paint each leaf. Finally I learned that masses of paint applied in a random way could give the impression of leaves. My first successful tree was done with another teacher in a four hour class. In fact I improved on his painting and have the painting on my office wall today. During my last class session, I did a small lake scene that no one else would touch. I finished in 45 minutes. That included the underpainting and oil on top. Those watching me finally said, "Stop, stop. Don't do another thing. Go show the teacher." Stepping back I realized it was exactly right. Soft realism, a style that I really hadn't aimed for at all.

I started painting plein air about two years ago. That changed my style even more. I realized that what you saw in life and what was captured on camera were very different. I was heading towards realism and I couldn't seem to stop it. Each painting seen up close seemed very loose, almost sloppy, but when viewed a few feet away had a startling realism I never intended. At a glance people thought I had a photograph, not a painting. I didn't seem capable of doing anything else. It wasn't what I wanted at all.

Then I did a sunflower painting. The photo stared at me on my craft work bench for a year. I finally decided to paint it. It came out very different than what I envisioned. A large sunflower flanked by smaller buds. People either loved it or hated it. Looking for a companion piece, I decided to paint a scene I saw on vacation. Wild daisies on a path to view the Grand Tetons in Wyoming.

Again, it was under painted in dark green acrylic on a peach tinted canvas. The fence is almost photo realistic but the daisies flutter across the scene in an impressionistic style that oddly enough works. A friend loved it and said that it was definitely my own unique style. A kind of realism and fantasy combined.

I guess the point of all this is that we can't always know where we are heading. There are just times you paint, or write or create music and "go with the flow." You may not know where you are headed but the journey is never dull!

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