Saturday, 30 May 2009

It's all the little things

So, it turns out (following on from my last post) that going bigger with a painting is a bit more complex than just making a bigger picture and filling in the gaps. It is a different kind of discipline altogether. I thought i'd post about some of the issues/solutions i've found so that maybe some of you other painters will be able to avoid my mistakes, or be kind enough to offer me some handy tips?

The first thing, which should have been obvious but which I overlooked is - need more paint.

Also, I knew that when you go larger you have to step away a lot, but I hadn't really factored it in as a habit. So I was kinda hit in the face with this fact, after lovingly painting the shadows and contours of a leaf for half the day and stepping back from it only to realise it did not work at all in terms of its surroundings. It is frustrating, after previously being able to work on something solidly to have to break your concentration to stand up periodically *

On that same note, painting with small brushes and building up shadows with tiny cross-hatched strokes wasn't working out either. I have now repainted over my original base and started to do very rough shapes of light and shade, not really caring about the details so much. I'll have to care about them later of course, but details to begin with were just terrible idea, especially when I had to paint over them all and felt awful that i'd invested so much time in them.

I realised I need quality bigger brushes as well. I have a lot of very good tiny brushes and one or two dejected larger brushes. So since I had some money burning a hole in my pocket - and since I was feeling frustrated with progress - I went to the art store and bought the most expensive paint brush i've ever owned. A large, flat, part-sable brush which is absolutely beautiful and worth it's weight in gold.

It holds paint better, it is incredibly soft and it never really disturbs the paint beneath even if that's still drying, it paints in even consistent strokes, there's never any unfortunate globules or bubbles going on. The lesson learned here is that although a bad workman might blame his tools, a good workman doesn't use bad tools.

On that same point - I always wondered why I had such a hard time replicating colours exactly. It never occured to me that it might be another case of bad tools

The palette on the right is the one i've used since....well many years...I think it is aluminium or something and crusted with old paint that is fused to the metal now. The one on the left is one I picked up along with the brush. The crucial difference is that the new one is white and the sections are flat bottomed. I'm not sure why I didn't click on to this earlier, but now it seems obvious that having a palette which is a reflective material and has no flat surfaces is not really a very good idea.

Thanks all for excellent suggestions and comments on last post by the way. Every day i've been trying to study something, and I may try some life-drawing classes if I can find some which happen in the evening. Hope you all have a great weekend, i'm off to the hairdressers today (I'm frightened of them so wish me luck!). And also, it is stunningly hot here again, so i'll be doing a lot of walking around...I can barely wait.

If any of you have any tips for me about painting large then I would greatly appreciate hearing them!

*I managed a nifty solution to checking from a distance which doesn't involve standing up and breaking your concentration. I always have a mirror handy in any case (for checking a painting in reverse) and if you hold it at arms length you can check the painting from a distance much more easily (depending on the size of your image you could also position one behind you so that you could just turn round and check it)

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Sketches & Methods & Thoughts on things

Hello there! It's another sunny day here, which is great but I always seem be snowed under with some project or other when it's sunny. Lots has been happening. First of all I started on a monster of a painting (for me). I cannot finish it right now however as I was asked to submit some work to an exhibition whose theme (no matter how I try to rationalise it) has nothing whatsover in common with the piece.

Here's some sketches from that on-hold piece:

I don't like to leave a piece once its started as I go off-the-boil very easily and never pick it up again. Given that I put a lot of effort into planning it and getting the finished drawing i'll be a bit pissed off if that happens.

But in any case, the theme of the new show is 'Birds and Bees' apparently. This is, I believe, primarily because the main artist is Mark Rowney and he produces a lot of work involving birds and bees. Actually, he also makes some astonishing leather work around this as well which you can buy at his Etsy shop here.

When I saw his work, and some pictures of the size of it, I went into a slight panic. My work is, as a rule, very small. This is very gradually changing as I gain confidence, and also as I bring my impatience under control. Even so, I felt that now would be a good time to go bigger still. Enough that you could see my work without having to squint :)

The first flat layer of paint. Cobbled-together frames will again feature heavily. I also managed to get hold of 2 beautifully carved Black Forest frames.

Anyway, I've been thinking about how my work has changed and this is in large part because of this gain in confidence, particularly in handling colours and also in the Acrylic inks I use. I was an artist in college who dropped everything and worked in digital mediums for years. It's only the last few years that I came back to working with paint. And I was not confident at all. If I look at the early paintings I produced it is all monochromatic, incredibly simple, highly illustrative.

I still love them for their simplicity, however as I gained confidence in using colour I wanted to expand beyond these kinds of images. Not only that but my drawing skills were very cramped. I was not confident beyond drawing the face and shoulders. My figures are always disembodied, as though I only really notice people's faces (Some self-observation comfirmed I pay no attention to people's bodies whatsover).

So ultimately i'm trying to observe people more, try things out which I would originally have been too worried about e.g. getting larger & losing the symmetry I rely on so heavily. I don't want to go too far out, there are things which are in my work for a reason and these are right, the rest is there because of anxiety and i'd like to see if I can get the necessary skills to overcome that.

So many of these issues can be easily solved by paying more attention, sketching more often, and crucially being willing to produce shit. Hopefully not too much shit, there's not enough hours in the day for that :)

Anyway, I hope to post some progress soon....and thanks all for your great comments and being a really supportive bunch x