Saturday, May 26, 2012

More Suggestion, Less Description

Saying both of those things I mentioned in my last post ("Don't think" and "Keep moving") did seem to help me yesterday.  I really need to let myself go and "damn the torpedoes" -- I constantly felt like I was doing stupid, messy things -- but it's the only way, it seems, to come up with anything interesting.  Even if I really am making mistakes constantly.  I need just to plow ahead, and correct them as they happen.

I have a thing going on sometimes where I make brushstrokes several at a time, then pause -- and what can happen is that I'll make a good mark, and then obliterate it.  Very annoying.  And yet it can be problematic to make just one mark at a time, and then pause and evaluate after every stroke:  maybe because things end up looking like hatch marks; maybe because there's too much pausing -- it slows you down and breaks your rhythm.  I need to try to be poised to stop if I notice a good mark, though -- they always look "fresher" than any that come after.

It's tough returning to paintings the next day.  It's imperative to go in with a will to destroy -- and yet you don't want to destroy the good stuff!

Towards the end of the session yesterday, I was making some awful leaves:  I'd switched to smaller brushes because my big ones were full of paint and I needed a clean brush to take a clear, bright red.  With the small brush, I started to make things that looked too much like leaves -- they paled in comparison to the big blotches on the other canvas (the other half of the diptych).  So I scraped all those small marks off, cleaned up, and then went out and bought more big brushes.  It was a good lesson (that I've learned before):  The less description, and the more mere suggestion, the better.

New Challenges

I've been trying some diptychs lately -- two adjacent, or nearly adjacent, views, to be hung together either one above the other or side by side. 

What worked well the other day was putting down a thin wash of OMS (odorless mineral spirits) and pigment a short while before painting.  I tried to achieve what I thought of as the color of "parchment": a little cadmium yellow light + cad yellow medium + cad red light to make a bright yellow-orange, then some black (ultra blue+ alizarin + cad yellow medium) to take it towards golden brown...when diluted with spirits against the white of the ground, voila, "parchment."  I put down that wash, then went for a walk, and by the time I started to paint, the surface was very soft and smooth -- super-easy to apply paint to:  it just glided on.  Very nice for getting down a quick layer, and little fighting against small white speckles (the ground showing through). 

Also, it worked to mix a LOT of paint up front -- something I often don't do.  I tend to mix a few general colors, then add pure color as I go, but I mixed a few more specific colors than usual, and having more paint on hand helped me move more quickly.  I tried to stay in a sort of half-thinking state of mind -- the same as I do for painting -- to create the colors, and as usual, that worked better than thinking.  It seems like my gut is much better at shorthand than my brain, which is better at detail.  And painting is largely about shorthand, so that makes sense.

I wonder what painters say to themselves when facing difficult challenges, such as (as I am facing now) coming back to a painting on the second day/session.  "Don't think"?  As always, that might be a good one.  And:  "Keep moving" around the painting -- don't get stuck in one spot.