I am part of a painting group through our local Nanaimo Community Centre led by Marilyn Ridsdale, a wonderfully accomplished painter and teacher. I started 5 years ago and I’m hooked. One of the cool things about this weekly gathering is the chance to paint with other people: check out their styles, celebrate their successes and as well as commiserate with their hair pulling. I also like the discomfort and feelings of accomplishment from the various exercises we do.
One exercise we do typically involves reproducing famous artist’s works, which I find fascinating. The process always goes very differently from what you originally had expected. The pieces that look the simplest are often the most challenging in the end. Example: last “semester” I painted a Lawren Harris piece. Initially it looked like a bunch of fairly broad and simple brush strokes, but there is so much more going on in his work that you only see upon close inspection (of a very small photo mind!).
Another exercise we often do is paint different genre from photos (of the original subject). This challenges you to broaden your skills in approaching different subject matter. Personally, I’m most at home doing people and animals perhaps with some landscape background, so I find doing a city-scape, for example, involves much more hair pulling (sometimes my own and sometimes that of others).
The nice thing about these exercises, as well, is that we tend to paint on smaller canvases (albeit not usually my preference). This means that the piece can typically be completed in the 2 hours with a few additional hours at home in some cases.
You can see my class works, and those of my class-mates, in person at the up-coming NANAIMO PARKS AND REC STUDENT ART SHOW and SALE on SATURDAY, MARCH 14TH FROM 12-3pm at BEBAN PARK SOCIAL CENTRE.
Soooo, the other day in my excitement and enthusiasm in exploring, I tried a new technique that almost wrecked this lovely 30″ x 40″ oil painting that I’m rather fond of: “Tango Heat”. AAAACCCCKKK (and a few other choice words)!
I had finished this painting and thought to myself that I’d like to try putting on a thick, tinted top coat that would show brush strokes. I wanted to try another way of giving my painting the feeling of energy being emitted from the subject.
Now, I have used cold wax medium as a top coat on oil paintings before with success. So, with just a small knot in my stomach, I bravely took out my cold wax medium, some odorless mineral spirits and added a bit of raw sienna to give it that warm glow. I grabbed a big bristly brush and started applying the medium. After about 1/3 of the way through, to my horror, I noticed all these “bits” starting to appear on the painting. I’m thinking they must have been bits of lint or dust as the painting had been sitting for a while and I’d neglected to wipe it down. Fortunately, I was able to scrape it off right away so no harm was done, but that was a definite “holy crap” moment!!
Back to the drawing board!!
FINDING THAT UNIQUE SOMETHING THAT WILL SET APART YOUR STYLE OF ARTWORK FROM THAT OF OTHERS. Tricky this one. There are so many artists out there and so many different styles, how do you stand out from the crowd?
OK, so I have a lot of questions and not a lot of answers yet. But, I think this is where the playing, experimenting, leaving the fear and hesitation at the door and just trying different ideas comes into play. If you’ve experienced any niggles in your brain or gut that have been whispering “what if I tried this?”, this is where you need to listen. I believe it’s your “core being” trying to give you some hints.
I have indeed had that niggle over the past few weeks and I’m finally now LISTENING! In fact, I’ve just finished a number of paintings after listening. The first is my first ever self portrait inspired by some strong sunlight streaming in a bathroom window on the ferry from Mill Bay to Brentwood Bay one gorgeous sunny fall day. What is different for me is the background. I created a nice thick textured backdrop by dragging a house paint brush through a thick medium concoction, while following the contour of my subject. The subject in my portrait of course was my big head (in this 18” x 18” sized canvas)! To me this textured under-painting emphasizes the energy that life puts out to the world. I feel this energy particularly from people lost in a “moment” and animals (who are always lost in the moment!). To me it’s also a reminder that what we do and who we are, the energy we give to the world, affects everything. We are like a pebble in a pond, the ripple effect of everything we do is felt (perceptibly or imperceptibly) by all. It gives one pause really, and makes you think about what you are putting out to the world.
STEPS #1 & 2: INSPIRATION THROUGH OTHER’S ART WORK: Finding What You Like and Boiling it Down
I have chosen a painting from 6 different painters whose work I love and have attempted to boil down what it is that inspires me, including elements that they have used that have contributed to this! Soooo, here ‘tis:
This painting by Brigitte Mattei is what inspired me to paint! I love the feel: Dreamy, romantic, mysterious. I think what helps create this is the blended back-ground with soft edges creating a blurred effect contrasted with the sharpness of the subject.
– Love the unusual use of colour in the water that you wouldn’t expect. I think this helps creates some mystery and that romantic feel.
Love this Mark Heine painting. Love that dream-like quality. Again, I’d say it’s the blurred background here and the use of unexpected colours that help create this. The palette he chooses and the lighting create a real atmosphere. I love the blurring of the birds that creates motion and the sharpness of their “target”. Wonderful!
What’s not to adore in Vincent Van Gogh‘s Starry Night! Love the dramatic movement; strong brush strokes, texture and values contrasts; and the contrasting colour temperatures.
The infamous “Jack Pine” by Tom Thomson has wonderful dramatic values contrasts, obvious brush strokes and a wonderful composition and colour palette!
Lovely dramatic painting by Roseann Munger. I love the strong directional lighting, reflected light on the body, the glowing light effect on the dress, the unusual use of colour (violet skin tones that really create that glow!), the dramatic values contrast, interesting composition, and the romantic feel.
Jack Vettriano is one of my heroes. I love the golden, late afternoon lighting that creates great shadows; the geometric brush strokes; the vintage/romantic subject matter & beach scenes; the lack of detail in the people; the contrasting temperatures in the colour palette and the interesting composition! Phew!
In sum I’d say that I want my style to include much of the following:
Feel: dramatic or dream-like, capturing a “moment”, romantic or nostalgic, mystique, drama
Techniques: blurred back-grounds, unusual colour palettes with contrasting colours, strong directional lighting with golden light tones and “glowing” , blurring and/or geometric brush strokes, back lighting, texture
Subjects: people and/or animals in nature
Not sure how to combine all of this. Wow…. this should be interesting!!