Monday, November 9, 2009

A New Approach

It appears to me that pretty much all artist's blogs consist of finished paintings, and then only those that are successful in the eyes of the artist. Even the most successful artists rarely exhibit more than 50% of the work. That's not to say that the other 50% is poor, but it is not deemed to be as good as the rest. Of course what happens, as all artists develop, is that the standard by which they measure their work gets higher, so the rejected 50% is probably much better than their best efforts some years previously. What doesn't change, however, is the variability, i.e. there will always be significant variance between an artist's best and worst work at any stage in their career, because a large element of painting is "black art" (please pardon the pun) and that is ultimately what makes it so intriguing.

Thinking about the above has led me to the conclusion that a more "honest" approach might make an artist's blog more interesting for followers. So from today, I will start blogging work-in-progress for all my studio work. Please forgive the fact that the entries will be non-linear, i.e. I usually start a studio painting and then move onto something else, before returning to the painting some days later and then moving on again. This is not down to moods or temperament (well perhaps partly!), but rather because some techniques work better when the underpainting has dried a little. But if a painting isn't working out I will say so and try to explain why, before moving on to something else.

So here goes then. I've been playing around with some photos taken while visiting Skellig Michael in September. As usual the photos completely fail to capture the steepness and sheer beauty of the place, but this one, especially with the figures in the distance, has I feel some potential as a basis for a painting.

Nature usually provides both value and complimentary colour contrast, but the camera usually fails to capture the latter, while the human eye enhances it. So I felt the scene here could be helped by playing up the complimentary contrast between the land and sea, i.e. making the land more orange and the sea bluer.
Having decided on a closer crop, I blocked in the colour of the main masses very quickly (canvas is 16" x 20").

I then did some work on the sea, just to establish the overall colours more accurately and just some hint of the direction of the waves. I also did a little work on the middleground and foreground. I'm happy enough at this stage that the painting is heading in the direction I had envisaged at the outset.

There are already some issues emerging. I plan to paint the figures pretty much where they are in the photo. To make them stand out I may change the colour of their clothing and will blur the wave action in that area. But I also want to capture the "silvery" look of the sunlit sea in the right hand side nearest to the sun. If I overdo this it will draw the eye there more than I want, but if I blur it I will fail to capture that blinding silvery look (value contrast and sharp edges are the key to achieving that effect). I suspect a little trial and error may be required in that area - we shall see. I'm also unsure whether or not to include the boat in the top left. The advantage is that it will give a strong clue as to distance and scale, but it is introducing a third area of interest - perhaps too much.

Tomorrow promises to be pretty good weatherwise, so I may do some plein air work instead. If not I'll start another studio work, because I need this to dry a little before doing further work. Sometimes the initial issues resolves themselves immediately when returning to a painting, so that's another reason for taking a break.


Mick Carney said...

Excellent idea and really interesting post. I look forward to following the progress of your studio works. Today I began a larger piece based on a watercolour sketch I did on holiday in Madeira, you may have seen it on WC. It is at a similar stage to your work and is put to one side while I ponder the next steps. Accentuating the complementary colours is something that I had not thought of, so thanks for that idea. Today's concern has been establishing appropriate values. Thanks again.

Michael McGuire said...

I'll keep an eye out for your finished painting, Mick. Why not post it as a WIP on Wetcanvas? It is a great way of getting constructive feedback.

Check out my reply to Ron Guthrie on the Landscape Forum of Wetcanvas for more thoughts on complimentary colour