Friday, June 25, 2010

Layer One

It's amazing how much the painting feels 'completed' by just filling in the background. In just a few minutes' time, it went from being half covered to all covered. Unfortunately, I had envisioned getting the first layer blocked in in just a few hours, not 2 or 3 weeks! But now is the time where I stand back and take a few breaths and comtemplate how I will manage to distort this image and make it a lot more obscure. Yeah, in a way, I'm going to mess it up royally, but that's what I want!

So don't get too attached to it, and don't try and stop me! Just say goodbye to this:

And now, for something completely different (to quote Monty Python)...

I have decided to set this painting aside and begin another, looser one that I can smear around on and learn what to expect with the second phase of this abstraction. That way, I can decide what to do on a work that will have taken less time. Once I get comfortable with the outcome, I'll switch back to this more labored piece. It's not how I wanted to start, but I'm learning. And since I'm such a sissy, I can't be that daring with this first attempt.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Time Lapse

After hassling over a broken washing machine, getting a new set of front-loaders delivered and hooked up, catching up on all the piles of laundry as a result, Father's Day, dental visits, and the other various things in life, I realize that I've slowed way down on this painting. Fortunately, when intending to make an eventual time-lapse view of the work, it doesn't care how much time has actually lapsed in between frames.

I'll cut to the chase here. The image still looks like a member of the paint-by-number club, and I've only tip-toed my way along since I last showed you. Can't wait to smear it up!

You see, I've been fighting 'Multiple Creativity Disorder' again. I feel pulled in several other directions lately. I haven't given in to too many temptations, but I realized that I have probably MORE projects going on that anyone I know. Most of them are started, but some are still only in the planning stages. I thought it would fascinate me to make a list of all of my projects, and maybe I could prioritize them a little better if I saw them listed. I won't get into mentioning the stash of yarn or fabric or beads or other raw materials I have and what I would like to make out of them... that would just be silly!

HA! After listing 29 separate general projects (some of them were paragraphs, enumerating several projects within each category), I got too depressed and decided to copy and paste them into a notebook entry on my desktop. No one wants to hear about all the stuff I need do in the future. If I get around to fiddling on any of them, I'll let you know, and if there's a photo, you may care to glance at it. But trust me, you don't want to read paragraph after paragraph about what I intend to do with this or that.

So I'll just get back to working on the hand of my gal here. Oh, did I mention that this started out to be a painting of the actress Rhona Mitra? She starred in the movie Doomsday, as well as having roles on television shows like Boston Legal, Nip/Tuck, and various others. By the time I get done abstracting the heck out of her, she'll probably look more like Jack Nicholson in 'The Shining'!

I don't think I have enough photos to string up the time-lapse series just yet. Another 2 or 3 images should get it going nicely, and I'll present it at that time- tick, tick, tick...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

There is no right way

Up 'til now, I never knew how many decisions were needed to make art that was anything other than realism. Before, working in a realistic style, I had only one goal: make the art look like my reference photo. I found that very easy to do. Now I'm intending to go in a looser, more abstract, and much larger direction and it's making me uneasy. I have worked a couple of long days on this piece and I've realized that it's still turning out way too realistic when you stand back from it. I blocked out the values and painted them in with jagged edges and murky colors. When I photographed the progress, it looks 'very nice' on the camera replay. NOOOOO... that wasn't what I wanted it to be. I was imagining something so vague that you wouldn't really notice a likeness to anyone. Granted, I still have many things planned to 'muck up' this piece, but I seriously have to remember with the next painting, that I don't need to start out so neatly! By the time I start slathering messes of paint all over the place, it will change drastically and the first layer's neatness won't matter.
So here it is so far, in all it's likeness of a paint-by-number work of art:

I should've taped a dollar bill to it so it's size/scale would be more obvious. It's 38 inches tall and totals about 70 inches in width. I have an open palm planned for the left side of the piece, sort of a 'talk to the hand' gesture.

Here's my frustration. It's way too commercial/graphic art looking, and I expected to work less tidy and more painterly. So I have a long list of possibilities to employ that should 'mess up' the image. I might smooth over the hard edges of each value block with some horizontal pinstripes that will 'stitch' the areas together. Those stripes will be varying colors, many that aren't naturally on a face. But the values will average themselves together and still end up making sense on the image (when you stand back and squint!) Also, I plan to create patterns and textures here and there in the areas of more solid color, especially in the dark area off to the right. Also, I think some glaze layers are necessary to add some mottling. I won't even mention the spray paint idea I'm deliberating over. Ha!

So I have made some tape marks on the floor where the tripod will stand, and after each painting session, I will set up the camera and take another shot. Eventually I'll string them all together in an animated gif that will show the time-lapse progression of the painting. This is going to be way more interesting to you than having me babble on about what I did. But at the same time, it's pretty scary for me because I'm in unfamiliar territory without a map, and I don't want anyone to know I may be lost! And SEE?, that's what I need to fight. That phrase right there is saying that I assume there's a right and wrong way to do this and I may or may not be working correctly. I really have to break out of my current tight-working style. My friend Kim told me this story one time (I assume it's true, but I didn't learn it myself in art history class) about Andrew Wyeth. Now, I appreciate his work and have always admired his sensitive, realistic portaits and images. Well, the story goes that one day Andrew was having a particularly frustrating time working and he flung his materials (paint, or brush, or whatever) at the canvas and walked out. The next day when he returned to the piece, instead of lamenting the damage or feeling that he had ruined it, he felt like it was the best thing he'd ever done. I don't know if he managed to incorporate the 'mess' into the realistic image, or covered it up, or exactly what the outcome was. The point is, the action of loosening up that much to fling something at the canvas in some kind of a climactic release didn't ruin the painting or end the world! It worked into the scheme of things and was greatly freeing to the artist. Now, I've never yet been able to do anything close to that. I'm still hovering a few inches over the work, holding my breath, going over and over the areas to solidly build up paint and work out all the brush strokes. Yikes! Get over it!

With all this admission of uncertainty, I must clarify that I can picture working through all these dilemmas with this first large painting and should be able to bypass much of my current hesitation in subsequent works. But the act of capturing all this with the camera as I go along is unnerving, to say the least. Still, I want to do it. A few years ago, a friend of mine was starting to paint and she said she felt like she was showing her bare butt to everyone. I thought that was an extreme way of putting it, but she was so hesitant to show her work at the time and felt very vulnerable when the pieces were done and needed to be exhibited. I really couldn't relate to those feelings then, but I can now. Since I am documenting all the steps along the way, it's not even like the instant exposure of a flasher... BAM! Nope, it's like everyone is warned of what's coming, they are watching and waiting, they see me undo the snap and reach for the zipper... okay, enough! I'll just keep telling myself there is no right or wrong way to do this. The decisions I make along the way are a result of a pretty good base knowledge of art fundamentals and of the materials I'm working with. Therefore, though I could go in any number of directions with each brush stroke, the ones I choose are the ones I choose... that's it. No right or wrong.

There's a neat paragraph in one of my favorite art books 'Art & Fear' by David Bayles & Ted Orland. It goes like this: '...the first few brushstrokes to the blank canvas satisfy the requirements of many possible paintings, while the last few fit only that painting- they could go nowhere else. The development of an imagined piece into an actual piece is a progression of decreasing possibilities, as each step in execution reduces future options by converting one- and only one- possibility into a reality. Finally, at some point or another, the piece could not be other than it is, and it is done.' (and I noticed that there is no mention whatsoever about any brushstroke being right or wrong, or anyone's embarassing nakedness showing. Whew!)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Allow Me To Introduce Myself...

I know, it's been a very long time since I muttered so much as a word here. I'm so sorry about that, but it's not as if I'm laying around being lazy. In case you've forgotten me, let me refresh your memory. I'm the one that frequently tries to go in several directions at once and has numerous project running simultaneously. I seem to bounce around from one medium to the next, depending on my mood, or an outside deadline, or... well, the weather even!

Since I last posted any news of my projects, I have worked sporadically on about a dozen things, none of which are finished, but a few are getting close. And I also had out-of-state company, and went on a 6-day driving trip with my step-daughter, been working in the garden, had a root canal and post installed in a lower molar (3 dental visits so far) which gets a crown later this month. So I have plenty of excuses as to why I've let my blog go unattended... but enough!... let's get on with it!

To re-cap, I have a garden gate and entrance in the works (still not finished), a guest bedroom redecoration nearing completion, it's adjoining bathroom just getting started, a dining room almost finished in the style of Captain Nemo's Nautilus submarine, some wooden panels under construction to paint on (actual paintings, mind you!), and I'm drawing up plans to create some built-in cabinetry around the living room. Meanwhile, I have tried to find time to knit on a couple different scarves while I'm sitting in waiting rooms or taking a break from more physical work.

So let me just insert a couple photos to back up my story! First, the guest bedroom. Remember the ugly wallpaper I complained about in the kitchen a few months ago? Well, there's more where that came from. The guest room had an unsightly floral wallpaper that HAD to go! It all got covered in a nice, calm grey color. The baby blue desk and shelving unit was also painted to match the walls.

That desk had been my husband's when he was a child.... but aesthetics finally won out over nostalgia... and now it's GREY! It was such a joy to un-box all my books and art materials and get them back within reach. My pencils have never been so organized!

The room was barely dry in time to host our guests from Omaha over Memorial Day Weekend. Hopefully they didn't mind that the room also has to double as my art studio and office space.

My most motivated project lately has been the creation of 5 sets of wooden panels. I am attempting to attach smaller panels together in each set to create a larger piece. Most of them are made up of three pieces and have had to be clamped and glued on a very flat surface so they don't end up warped and mis-shapen.

My father-in-law set up a nice work space for me under the awning of his house. Since I have no sufficient space to work at my house, this has been a real big help. I have set a goal to have all five of these panel sets painted on by the end of summer. I'll be attempting to head off in a new direction for me, artistically. I have always worked in a very realistic style, but at the moment, I feel compelled to loosen up and get a little weird. My subject matter will be faces and they will probably be rendered in colors that don't make sense- with stripes, patterns, and textures that 'don't belong' on a face. I'm not going for anything resembling portraiture here. I want the faces to be fairly abstract so that they only suggest an expression or emotion. Well, I don't want to talk too much about the particulars until I get going. For a change, I will be able to make decisions all along the way about the work. In the past, once I had started, bringing each area to completion before moving on, the decisions were already made. I had to make each subsequent area match the first part. There was no playing around, no experimentation. Now I will have a lot more freedom, and I'm not sure whether to be relieved or worried. I'll let ya know.

In the meantime, I have these groups of panels to join together and then coat with primer.

I plan to capture the daily progress with the camera and I should be able to get back to at least a weekly blogging entry. See you real soon!