I asked for it. As an artist I have to initiate my projects…push my ideas up to the surface and then out into the air. Siren’s song ? (inspired by Greek mythology)…yes, but stimulating and positive many days too. This week, painting the extraordinary red sand dunes…and the air and color and light quality that I remember from last July. I am immersed in sketches, prepped panels and paintings at many stages. I needed a little recharge so I participated in a webinar with the painter, Mary Bentz Gilkerson, who is an artist and teacher from South Carolina, that I admire. It was a fast-paced, lively hour spent online! She kept pounding home the need for composition preparation before you start painting. I wrote down the key points…narrow down your design to 5-7 main shapes and make a value study or “Notan“ and your painting will be stronger and flow more easily…(most of the time).
One of the ways that I started to use this idea is to compose, crop and play with the development of my reference photos in Adobe Lightroom, which is the photo filing and editing program that I use. This week I started printing out a low quality, black and white image to use for reference while I paint…along with my “onsite” sketches and memory. The black and white photos help me just look at the structure…the shapes and the patterns of light and dark. I’m not trying to copy the color in the photographs, but rather allowing a more 3-dimensional approach to the painting to happen. It has been liberating and refreshing!
I also attended a 2-hour demo and lecture by the Seattle artist, Mitch Albala and he is also a strong proponent of “light and dark design or composition,” with 3-7 dominant shapes and making clear studies with the patterns established using “Notan” too. He filled the workshop with so much valuable information…and was so generous, my notebook was filled with tips and references to other artists who use these structural techniques. One of the master artists, who employed amazing skills in his compositions and magical, luminous light was Winslow Homer. My huge book is out and open all the time in my studio. “Astonishing”…I say it out loud, to myself!
Stages…beginning, middle, and end. It’s really not that simple and tidy. Painting can be messy…and I don’t just mean the use of the materials. I read a quote a couple of years ago by another artist who said that “painting asks us to cultivate our capacity to be with confusion.” Confusion endurance.
So I begin another painting…to get to the end of my goal…the end of my project…Namibian Portfolio…the finished painting(s)…to realize that I must start again.
Create, generate, share.
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