Monday, August 23, 2010
I think I had a breakthrough! Although . . . I'm often initially
enamored when I start working in a new way, then the inevitable
doubt sets in. This morning, I took to heart the quote I posted yesterday
and figured out a goal for this little guy . . . I wanted the yellows to sort
of cascade and create movement. I prepared my tools like a zen calligrapher,
cleared my mind of everything else, took a deep breath and tried to
channel my inner Carol Marine. :-) I used loads of paint, laid down a stroke
and wasn't even tempted to massage it or blend it. It felt soooo good.
The title strikes me as inspired but if I accidentally stole it . . . :-(
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Diner mugs have always held a certain poignancy for me. They evoke
images of night owls, people who prefer a too-brightly lit space in the
company of other solitary coffee drinkers over going home. Edward
Hopper's paintings come to mind and his ability to portray loneliness.
Also this artist who's drawings and sculpture I discovered in the 80s.
I lifted a passage from sixtyminuteartist.blogspot.com that I'm going
to tape to my easel:
"Really work through your motivation for starting a painting—before you start
mixing colors and drawing on the canvas—and stick with this idea throughout.
Try to get that idea onto the canvas. When you step back from the canvas,
ask yourself not if looks like the subject matter—but if it feels like it. Not if
the drawing is good, but if the sensation is good."
I'd been assuming that if I handled the rendering, color, brushwork etc. the
piece would somehow magically be infused with feeling.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
An attempt to stretch a bit. And to animate the inanimate. I've learned
a lot about space and volume, feel myself moving away from painting
one object, moving on to the next, then finally, paying attention to the
background or negative space. Instead, it's beginning to feel more normal
to make marks over the entire surface and allow the objects to assemble
themselves. That means laying in negative areas as I go. I painted this
panel black and let it dry. The sensation of putting down light paint on a
dark ground was a thrill--made me paint less carefully. I need to throw
myself some curve balls--start with a different surface, ground color, or
some outrageous mark and then respond to it.
Monday, August 16, 2010
Another true alla prima! It's getting easier to not want to attack this again
and repaint some areas. It's like getting over an addiction. The truth is
I'm not sure what I could do to make it better, although hard-wired in my
brain is the certainty, that if given another chance, I could do better.
There's a stack of panels in my studio half as tall as I that are evidence
that maybe I can't . . . not today, not from where I am at the moment.
For right now, I will let this painting live as it is, focus on a new one and
hope it's a step in re-wiring.
You alla prima painters already know this . . . it's still a process for me.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
I keep coming back to the same objects and compositions
because there are infinite ways to paint them. I marvel that
the same medium and tools in different hands yield entirely
different results. With each piece, I try to be aware and
conscious that I need to begin differently, be aware of each
stroke and be attentive to how that stroke relates to others,
whether in color, value or texture, but I always backslide,
forget and revert back to old habits. Then the struggle begins.
As an 8 x 6, this panel seemed huge!
Friday, August 13, 2010
I so seldom set up objects below eye-level but it's a useful way
to circumvent that part of one's brain that thinks it already knows
what it's seeing. I often robotically make the same strokes
without really being aware that I'm not painting what I see.
Altering the perspective forces me to really look. Changing
subject matter to landscape or figures would probably serve
the same function. Hmmm . . .
Thursday, August 12, 2010
A retry of the same subject but using more paint and stronger color.
Cast shadows have so much more color than I've noticed before. Also
reflected light from surrounding areas in the object. I seem to be trying
to marry my "swashbuckling" paint-handling to material objects. As I
continue to work this out, my observation skills keep improving, not
only of the objects in the set-up but the photographed piece on the
monitor. It's really helpful to see it from this perspective.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Well. Here it is finally---my first genuine alla prima painting! It took lots
of scraping and wiping to make the cast shadow and the shadow on
the bottom cup. I tried to slow down and work judiciously, mix the
value right before applying it, scrape it off if it wasn't. The top cup
painted itself . . . forced myself to make a stroke and leave it alone.
Also had to resist my tendency to say "I can fix it later." The apple
was a struggle . . . a week from now, I may have to renig on the first
line of this post. :-)
Painting flowers, glass and cast shadows turned into quite a challenge!
All the colors and value changes within the vase and the shadow. The
cast shadow required a lot of scraping/wiping and re-evaluating and redoing.
The set-up had a deep red backdrop but I was hopeless in making the
transparency in the shadow relate to it while keeping the background pushed
back. The apple came easily without my usual tendency to massage and
describe and the area above it to the right was so much fun---massive amounts
of dark green paint brushed one stroke at a time on top of already thick light
paint. In the end, out of frustration with the background, I turned away from
the setup and tried to concentrate on what the painting needed to organize the
space. Is that cheating?
Up til now, my intention had been to paint alla prima but without
success. Some flaw always glared at me until I just had to rework it.
With this painting, the initial intention was to apply layers after the first
coat had dried. I painted the cherries in dark values and the background
with mottled grayed reds, then painted the bright reds on top of the
cherries and used zinc white (transparent) over the background for a
veiled effect. So here's yet another thing to consider---the strategy
involved in making a painting. I like traditional methods: glazing and
scumbling and want to get better at those. And, I'm still determined in
my quest to do a genuine, all-at-once alla prima painting. Will all the things
one needs to consider, and when to consider them, eventually all become
I think I stole this title from Carol Marine. I thought it was original,
but in looking at her older posts recently, there it was. As a graphic
designer, I had to have copyright infringement insurance in case I
inadvertently lifted someone else's idea.
This is a gesso panel that I so disliked, so I coated it with Liquitex
gloss medium before painting on it. The paint glided on which I loved
but I also realized that I should use more paint. Up until then, I had this
mantra I'd learned in college about fat over lean. To me that meant
thinned-with-turp paint in the first-go, less turp next, but it didn't occur
to me that "thin" paint could be straight out of the tube. I've wasted a lot
of panels using oils like watercolor.
Posted by Lorraine Shirkus at 6:08 AM
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
In my so-far short foray into the arena of still-life painting, I had never
considered texture. Duh. Here, I wanted to make tomatoes look shiny
and translucent. I had always focused on the texture of the medium---
the paint, the ink, the pastel . . . hadn't linked it to the texture of any
object I wanted to portray. There are so many elements to juggle: color,
value, texture, dimension, space, making an object look like the object,
making it occupy space, making multiple objects take their place in a
composition: almost too many to hold equally all at the same time. For
months, I was obsessed with Jacob Collins' and Abbey Ryan's work
(I so admire their ability) but it's not my nature to work that realistically.
It made me insane. :-)
Just playing with color and edges and subtle shifts in values while
trying to maintain dimension. At this point, I should confess that
I still haven't done a bonafied "daily painting" as in alla prima.
It takes me a few days to actually "see" what I've laid down. My
guess is that since taking on the challenge of painting "reality" I'm
too concerned with capturing individual objects/elements no matter
how hard I try to fight it. In my previous painting experience where
everything was made up or invented, I would let the current mark/
stroke/color suggest what mark to make next until the whole
surface started making sense to me. Now I set up real objects
and light them and try to know them as I paint. Before, the whole
point was about not knowing. I know the same mystery exists in
this way of working and I'm determined to find it. Karin Jurick has
a quote on her blog from Andrew Wyeth---"it's what you carry to an
object that counts."
This painting, I think, shows the right-brain/left-brain struggle I seem
to be constantly engaged in. I was pleased with the paint-handling in
the yellow cup but got tight with the other cup and lemons. Somewhere,
embedded in my psyche is the knowledge that I'm not painting objects,
but rather, making a painting. Coaxing that knowledge to the forefront
of my brain as I work is still so difficult! But I guess that's why we
This was probably done in March (with a lot of others) in an attempt to
be less airy and atmospheric, more bold in the use of color and brush strokes.
I had been using gesso-coated boards but felt the first layer of paint got
sucked into the surface, so I switched to Raymar oil-primed panels.
I loved them immediately!
This is a painting I did in February, shortly after taking a Carol
Marine workshop. It seemed I hadn't learned anything at all!
But in looking back, it's so much better than the still-lifes I had
done before the workshop.