Monday, April 19, 2010

Artistic Struggle

Trying new mediums is one of my artistic goals this year. I am comfortable with oils, love the rich colors and butter feel of working with high-grade professional oils. I love them! I have no intentions of abandoning them.

But I have never really painted with anything else. Oh I have toyed with watercolor. Who hasn't today? But they are a bit unforgiving, and in my early days of painting, I needed a lot of forgiving!

Still do for that matter, but that is another story.

With this spring’s Fine Arts Exhibition, and my own earlier sickness, I really did not have time to fully develop 3 oil paintings, so necessity has forced me to actually keep my goal for this year. I hate to admit it, but although I have always wanted to try other things, I am a bit of a coward, and was reluctant to strike out. Especially I did not want to show anyone my struggles!

So, as usual, I have reverse order over most artists. Instead of starting with watercolor and acrylics, I started with oils, and will work my way backwards!


As it would happens, the local hobby shop had a sale on artist quality acrylics this week. The dye was cast.

Acrylics are texturally very different from oils. While I knew, intellectually, this would be true, I don’t think you are every ready for it in practice.

But I digress.

I needed 2 more paintings and I needed them fast, at least to dry fast to give me maximum time to dry. I also wanted to change things up a bit, try for something different. Acrylics was as close to an answer as I was going to find.

For the first painting I decided to try something a bit more graphic, less detailed and flatter. Usually, I work hard at creating depth in my landscapes, but this time I was going to use non-local color and a more abstract style. I worked out my thumbnail, and sketches, and with vine charcoal placed just the basic shapes. This is all I intended to paint, block in the basic shapes.

I used a limited pallet of Violet, Yellow Ochre and White. To achieve any distinction between objects I had to manipulate the values of these pigments, darkening some and lightening some. Mixing them together would give me the grays to add some shading.

Mixing Paint

These paints were much softer than I was used to, and a bit tricky to mix. For the first time I had to worry about drying times, not in hours and days, but in minutes. Usually I spread my paints widely, into rather thin strips. but if you do this with acrylics they dry before you can use them. Also, keeping a spray bottle at hand is a good idea. There are medium you can use to delay this drying time, but naturally, I had none of these! In addition, my standard pallet knife seemed awkward with them. I persevered, I did find a small plastic spoon was a better mixing tool.

The resulting painting is a 12 x 12 square, another departure for me. I tend to stick with what I am comfortable with, and work either in standard landscapes sizes of 18 x 24 or with miniature sizes of about 4x5. So even the format is outside my comfort zone.

The second painting is again a modified landscape, again in acrylics. This is a waterfall of sorts. Large graphic rocks splashed with rapids of an active stream, but with found colors dominating. Emphasizing the blue of the water and the red-orange rock colors, the painting does not try to convey a realism that is more typical of my artwork, but a warmer, more whimsical interpretation of rocks in a stream. Again, this has a limited pallet. Here I worked with a mid-blue and its complementary orange with white. The sky blends into to the river and flows over the rocks whipping up the spray onto the bank.

Even the first trial and error blocking in did let me work with the medium. While I would not call the painting a roaring success, even our failures teach us something. I strongly believe that without the failures you cannot achieve real success. Well, I have the failures now!

While there is a certain amount of success in these paintings, they are far from masterpieces. These paintings are not really very good, from a purely artistic standpoint. But they represent the struggle, the attempt to mastery of a medium and of artwork. They are simply steps along the way. Some of the many hundreds need to complete the journey from painter to artist.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Did you enjoy this post? I would love to hear from you