Saturday, February 8, 2014

Recording Every Brush Stroke

It is said that every painter leaves a signature with every brushstroke. In fact, this is as good as a signature. But, like handwriting, this is also where fakes are created as well. The more "signature" your brushstroke leaves, the greater the chance it could be mimicked.

Do you record what you paint? I have often wondered if the great master's did. We know that Van Gogh left copious records of what he did but they are more descriptions, sketches not colors per se.

Keeping A Notebook As You Work
Whether it is a craft item or painting I bet you do if you are a teacher that submits articles to such craft magazines as PAINTWORKS, teaches classes and or has packets for sale. It is an imperative. You need to record what you have done to teach others. However, it is not always perfect. I was surprised when my teacher admitted that one of her classes last year had a few missing steps and she was going to correct them for her packets.

I would bet that the vast majority of us don't record a thing. I have always been somewhat disturbed that students in classes I have taken are shook if the exact color a teacher uses is not available. I mean, really, does a face about an inch square "really" need 15 different colors? Even more surprising are the looks when tired of waiting for that "color" I mix it myself. It is like they have never heard of such a thing. No wonder there is such a revival in paint by number kits. While I have only seen images in catalogs it appears they have come a long way since I was a kid in the 50's. Yet, is this really art or merely copying?

When I work on my crafts (though since my surgery I am now recording what I do) at home, I usually leave the paints I use out on the table. The number may grow but I make sure, just like in my paintings, that every color is used more than once. Spreading, even a splash of a color on all sides of say a birdhouse, just like a painting, it ties it to every other color you used. There are times when you don't do that but the effect should be amazing even to provoke comment! Otherwise it is considered bad form. I liken it to the early days of desktop publishing. Because there were so many type faces available newsletters, newspapers and magazines used hundreds of fonts. It looked awful. Publishers had to hire the retired hot type men to teach these digital people how to create a pleasing AND easy to read product. Yes, it WAS that bad. While I question the necessity for sooooooo many variations of the same color, your eye can tell when you are using the wrong one!

Because I paint in a studio that is not my own, I started to record what colors I used in a painting when I realized I wasn't always using the same color the next time. I would forget from one week to the next. Then I began to record under the assumption that I would get to teach these paintings and wanted to make sure every student used the same colors and would achieve a painting similar to my own. My health has gotten in the way of that so I most likely will never get that chance.

You may wonder, do I ever look at those notes again? Yes, I do. When I start another painting that has a somewhat similar color palette, I check out what I did before and use those colors as a starting point. I am not a prisoner to them but if you achieved a pleasing effect once, why not use it again? Do I mix? YES! Sometimes I spend too much time looking for the perfect color when there are tubes I've used already on the table. Mixing them to form another color kills two birds with one stone. First, since you already used the colors, you are only making a variation of them. They already fit the palette. And two, a quick dab of this and that takes seconds rather than minutes looking for that darn paint.

On your next project give it a try. Make as detailed or general as you want. Then see on the project after that if you aren't more aware of what you've done. It sure works for me.

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