Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Backstory

Looks like a bunch of paint blobs, huh. 
That's because I was being painterly.

I was admonished by one of my loyal readers for not sharing the art story behind the Silverton painting (click here to see it). There’s always a story behind each piece, because each one is an adventure in art.

You might remember I was a little nervous about this painting because the subject matter was outside my usual repertoire. I wasn’t worried about the background; it was the rail car that concerned me. However, from the beginning, I had decided to approach the subject in a loose and painterly manner. I didn’t want the extreme detail that would make it look like a photo.

See how bumpy the canvas is? 

Added to that, I started with a recycled canvas. I painted over an old piece that sat in the “maybe” pile for years. It had a lot of paint on it, the subject being a band of exuberant street musicians, so there was a great deal of texture on the surface, which added to the approach.

There are plenty of artists who paint trains that are perfect—right down to the number of rivets. That’s not me and it never will be. As one of my professors in college said, "If you want it to look like a photo, why not just take a photo?" The point being that your interpretation and the natural imperfections of the art process that go into a painting are what make it uniquely your own—and make the art more interesting too.

Here's an early version of the piece.
But my worries were unfounded. The rail car nearly painted itself. I mean, I painted it, but it was not on a conscious level. Often when I paint, it’s akin to meditation. I’m there, but I’m not there. I’m making color and value and brushstroke decisions, but it’s more on an unconscious or instinctive level. It’s shapes and color and texture that are pictured in my head. No words, no solid thoughts that I could verbalize.

When I am finished painting for the evening, I rinse my brushes and leave the studio. I rarely take the time to evaluate my progress. I wait until I return to the studio. Upon my return, it’s always a little bit of a surprise—"Wow, how’d I do that?" That thought might be positive—or negative. Then, I determine my next step and dive back into my painting meditation.

The painting of the rail car was much like that—completed while in a richly satisfying and relaxing meditative art state. It was actually the background where I struggled to find the right value and shade of blue for the deep winter shadows. No color dreaming my way through that part of the piece. It required focused trial and error until I stumbled upon just the right color mix and transparency.

Just barely started. 
I'm hoping to make some headway on this tonight.

In my new piece, I return to one of my favorite subjects, water. Specifically, a beautiful stretch of Wet Beaver Creek. Yes, those early settlers were a randy bunch, weren’t they?

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