Sunday, March 21, 2010

Adirondack, Apple, and Abridgment

Just like a good story teller, a painter wants to tell a story too. She saw a certain something that moved her and she wants to share that with the viewer. A superb story teller captures you with the first sentence. Each word and pause counts. Talk too long or say too much and the story is spoiled. It’s very similar with painting; tell your story with a limited number of strokes. The example is this painting of the Adirondack chair, an apple and a mug. Abridge the elements so it says enough without telling too much. No need to show every part of the chair to know it’s an Adirondack chair. No need to show every blade of grass or the title of the book. The viewer is perfectly capable of filling in any blanks. Abridge, condense, and shorten. All words for good storytelling and good painting.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Taking stock of Critique Groups

As a relatively new user of critique groups, I'm practically evangelical in my praises for them. I have found it extremely useful to have all those fresh eyes examining my painting and telling me what works and does not work on my painting. By fresh eyes, I mean other than the artist’s eyes which are somehow veiled to the truth of their own painting. It’s like an umbilical cord links the artist to their work and till that cord is severed, which sometimes takes months or even years after the work is completed, most artists are unable to objectively see their work. The trick with critique groups is to find or create one with artists near or above your ability. Take notes on all the comments about your work, listen instead of defending yourself, and then sort through the comments later. Through experience, you’ll begin to figure out what comments to discard and which make sense to incorporate. I brought this painting of the stockpot and vegetables to my current teacher and to one of the critique groups who, of course, had opposite things to say. Now I get to look inside myself and decide which direction to take it next. It’s my decision but made better by all those fresh eyes.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Tulips and Cake- in a painterly fashion

Painterly. It's a term that only painters use and perhaps made up as well. But it does mean something to painters. It's when you're not house-painting; another term painter’s use but always in a derogatory way (no offense to real house painters who do a fine job). House-painting is when you've drawn out your picture and you simply fill in each little section with color. What, you say? That's not how you do it? No, dear. Not at all but it's sure as heck how most of us started out! As you mature as a painter, you begin a dance with your paint brush every time you paint. Its a little love dance done on canvas. You twist and scumble, push paint and alight like a butterfly all over the canvas. To watch a master painter paint is a bit of a miracle, almost like watching an Olympic athlete. Some add to this act of putting paint on canvas the layering of paint with big, juicy gobs of paint that leave beautiful textural strokes. This usually happens when the painting is nearly complete. You lay down strips of light on the canvas with often large, directional strokes of paint. The way the light falls on the subject is practically physical for the painter. Like laying a comforter on a sleeping baby, it follows the form.
This 16x20" still-life oil painting was done in the studio from a live set-up and yes, I ate two huge slices of cake when I was done dancing with my paint brush.