Friday, December 6, 2013

Daring To Be Afraid

I don't know about you but when I start a new project, there is always an element of fear. I am excited to start but I am always afraid that it won't turn out the way I want. I am literally afraid of failure! Yet, even when I paint something I don't like, I realize that I have learned something. So, I have to remind myself, it really isn't a failure at all.

To tell the truth, my projects rarely end up the way I thought they would. Artists who are used to being daring and by tempting fate are not be afraid of what they are trying. I should learn that lesson too. However, I do believe that there IS a time and place for every project. Here is a perfect example.

WHITE FENCE by Alan Krug of KrugsStudio
This painting of a white fence in Descanso Gardens was a scene I saw several years ago. I loved the simple composition and the riot of colors but didn't feel I had the skills yet to capture this in a painting. Looking at photos I had taken and printed out a few weeks ago, I found this in my stack and set it aside. I seriously considered if I was ready yet. Finally, I decided I was.

Even though I haven't painted an oil painting now in over a year, I find that I am still using that technique with acrylics; working from dark to light. It seems to work for me and so ... that is what I continue to do. The other technique that my mentor has stressed over and over again is to paint from back to front. In fact, I covered that in an earlier blog. It's amazing how often though I try to violate that rule. I get wrapped up in some area and want to get it done and then realize I need those same paints in other areas. This painting is a perfect example of both issues. Let me tell you why!

This is only an 11" x 14" canvas and yet it took as long to paint as my larger canvases. The entire canvas was painted a deep, deep black green. At first glance it looks black until you put some black on it. I then sketched in the fence using a white pencil. Seems easy enough right? Wrong. Instead of putting in the fence that separated the foreground from the background I put in the foliage in the background behind the fence. First three tones of greens worked their way from back to the fence. Then three pinks were used starting on the right moving haphazardly to the left. That was the right thing to do until we came to the fence. The background spilled over the fence that was still only an outline.  Needless to say in I "had" to paint the off-white fence. I didn't want it to be glaring white. The grain clearly showed so I opted for a soft milk white instead. Then the flowers were added from right to left spilling over the fence creating a riot of pinks with leaves thrown in now and then. As I moved across, then yellows and Cad Red were added to favor the actual scene.

To create the dimensionality of the fence I used a soft grey to show the shadows cast by the flowers and outlines of wood grain. Suddenly it began to pop off the canvas. I dabbled the grey around the flowers and leaves creating a nearly realistic look that didn't detract. If anything I gave the flowers behind the fence far more dimension.

Before the foreground flowers were painted another dark green was used for leaves and stalks. Then the flowers were added again going from darker tones to lighter as the flowers moved from shade to light. My last items were the leaves that had no flowers but formed a foil for the colorful flowers. The visible dirt was build up from burnt umber, then a variety of tans and something I mixed from the colors left over from the flowers with white. Tips of yellow were added to the foreground flowers to give them depth as well.

Was this what I expected? Yes and no. It was definitely the painting I wanted to paint but yet it became something more. I proved to myself that I could handle the complexity if I stayed with a system. The mistake, if it was really a mistake, was to ignore the fence until nearly too late. In some ways it worked because the area behind the fence needed to be finished first. Painting the fence when I did enabled me to move from back to front without much of a sacrifice of time or paint. It also allowed me to be a bit sloppy and use the white to cover the mistakes behind the fence or on the fence. The system worked as both the areas behind and in front of the fence went from dark to light with no apparent sectioning of one or the other. It flows perfectly together.

I am proud of this piece. I was afraid of botching it up. Yesterday, starting again after two weeks it was very tempting to leave it unfinished because what had been done up to that point was exactly what I had hoped for. I was afraid the foreground would kill it. I moved past that fear and was able to finish what I had started.

I urge everyone out there, crafter, artist, writer, anyone to move past your fears. Learn from your failures as well as your successes. I read somewhere that to not fail is to not live. So?  LIVE IT UP!

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  1. I know the feeling. Good for you for pushing through.

  2. I know the feeling! Good for you for pushing through.