Thursday, February 20, 2014

Painting From The Heart

I had a fascinating discussion with a dear friend today. He has been following my artistic adventures since we met and has both encouraged me and yet has made some pointed comments that at times I resist but on reflection realize that what he observed was correct.

Painting, as writing or composing, is an intimate conversation with yourself. You are trying in whatever way you can to convey to a wider audience what you "feel" inside. There is no other way to describe it. Painters may not be articulate but are highly visual and using images try to convey feelings that, in many cases, they are unable to articulate in any other way. The world to them is an explosion of images that they filter and give back to us.

He is encouraging me to paint more from what I feel, what I see in my heart rather than being dependent on images that I see. His comment that I painted in a very organized manner was very different from what I am really like.  My answer was that maybe I was trying in my painting to organize myself whereas I seemed unable to do that with my life. I was stunned at this comment and realized that the best paintings I had done were the ones where I left myself go, just had fun and wasn't trying to prove anything. Anotherwards, use my heart to create something that I may have seen but depend on the feeling of what it felt like, NOT a faithful rendition of what it was. When I argued that most of the world's greatest images are created from real life...landscapes, still lives or portraits I realized that those that move us the most transcend the scene and expose an intimacy that moves us.

RED SKY CACTUS, by Alan Krug
As I recover from surgery I have been playing with some ideas that I have painted in my mind. My ability to focus is still short but painting in your mind is very easy!

I love cactuses and find their forms truly amazing. As a kid growing up in Oregon, the sudden shift of my family to New Mexico had a profound effect on me. When I moved to California it was the desert that drew me more than the coast. Greens are nice but the desert offers such a variety of colors they can almost be overwhelming at times!

Trying to break away from the kind of realism I did in my earlier series of four cactuses, I wanted one that was spontaneous, that left no doubt what it was but was vibrant, captured the heart of my own search to express myself in my art. I have painted this painting a hundred times in my mind but find that its not so easy putting on canvas what I can see so clearly in minds eye.

As you can see in the image above, I roughly sketched the image of the cactus going across the square 12" x 12" canvas at a diagonal. I wanted sky at the top and the bottom. I used Alizarin Red at the top, then Naphtol Red in the middle areas and Vermillion at the bottom right...deeper to lighter.

Because there are a few flowers I left that part pretty well undefined. Because I wanted to build up the green of the cactus, I started with a black green that was brushed on as were the reds used in the background. I wanted a dense base because I planned on building up the additional color with palette knifes. I was doing everything I could to stay away from realism. I wanted to portray the vibrant emotion I felt not encumbered by a photo.

Pretty wild green, no? What a contrast to the red sky but I am not done yet. However, this layer was done using a palette knife. I added an Yellow Green over the dark green. Its not done but is beginning to capture what I feel.

I also used the palatte knife to add depth to the red sky. Note how the upper left is darker using Alizarin put directly on the palette knife. The bottom right has orange completing the dark to light background I wanted.

Already the cactus is taking shape. Buds puncture the big flat cactus branch as it stretches across the canvas. As more layers are added it will be even more discernible. The problem will be, when to stop? How much detail do I need? That has been played out many times in minds eye but the jury is still out. One of the great things about acrylics is that you can wait a few minutes and paint over mistakes, mis-directions.

Mis-directions. What is a mid-direction? Interesting term that. I wonder if that is what makes a painting go from being good to great is a MIS-DIRECTION? Is being fearless in making a mistake really not a mistake at all but moving forward, breaking through self imposed limitations.

There is an amazing scene in the movie "Pollack" that seems to show how he stumbled on his drip paintings. In the midst of an abstract painting, paintings we rarely associate with him today, he splattered paint on a drop cloth. Seeing the randomness of the paint he had an epiphany and added a few more. The rest is history. The point though, was that he was willing to take a chance, mis-direct himself and in doing so finally reached the greatness he so desired!

I am not done with this painting yet. However, I wanted to share the journey of this painting and maybe the direction my painting will take in the future as well. To not move forward, to not stretch beyond what we have already done is a form of artistic death. So, the journey continues.

Thank you for reading! Please visit for paintings and craft art.

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