Friday, August 24, 2012

Painting Over Painting #2

24"w x 30"h - So here it is now..I'm digging it, but, then again, I just finished it!
I'm not sure I would consider this a traditional method of painting, but painting over previous paintings does have some positive effects on my general attitude. Let's be practical. First off, we all have thousands of paintings in our basements. Why keep buying more canvas and shipping in more hard boards when the truth is, there are millions of mediocre paintings just waiting to be either 1. gessoed over or 2. painted over.

I thought this was pretty great and it isn't too bad,
but why settle for "not too bad"?
People get very closed-lipped about acknowledging  failure and admitting that they can produce forgettable work...especially on pieces that they have just finished. I believe, as artists, we are always closest to the piece we have just finished last. After all, have you ever met an artist that smiled at you and said politely "Shall I get you a cup of coffee and show you my latest painting on the easel? It really is a forgettable canvas, here have a seat while I get that coffee." Of course not.

I think as artists, our objectivity about our own work comes after a certain amount of time has passed. I also believe it is hard to spend an entire day painting and admit to ourselves "Boy...I produced a whole lot of mediocre work today that I will most likely paint over in three years!"  I sometimes tell my students that every failure they create should really just be considered "brush mileage". And the more you paint the better you will get, which means that there are a lot of canvases out there that are "learning" experiences. Now, even though  I know this and teach this idea it is still hard to accept that I can spend a day on "brush mileage". We all want our paintings to turn out in every aspect while we are working on them.

But, after some time has passed, personally, I can look upon my work with fresh eyes, and realize that it is just merely "pleasant", "okay" or "not bad". I have spent a lifetime dedicating myself to unraveling the mysteries of drawing and painting. My aspirations are for something a bit higher than "Oh, isn't that nice?" This may be the difference between the hobbyist painter and the artist. Or it could indicate that I am neurotic about painting.

So, I am uploading my first painting here. I was very pleased with it. I liked my composition and the cutting of his face where I did, very non traditional compositional idea for me. I also tried taking the shadow down the middle of his face rather than off to one side, so even that was a little more tricky. To be honest, I was quite pleased with this when I had finished it up. I had put this in the stack of "Finished" not in the "Paint Over Someday" stack. It was only when I found myself in my studio looking at it again I realized that it was really sort of blah. The brushwork is not confident (mostly because I am not used to painting faces that large so the brushwork is more muddy). And I didn't paint the eyelids convincingly so they look more like walnuts than flesh and then the more I looked at this I thought "Why on earth did I think this was so great?"

So...I set it on the easel and started painting the portrait of the man looking up (again). He is the same man from the first MRI painting. Naturally, I am quite pleased with it, which only serves my first argument of we are always closest to the latest work that we have completed. Ask me next month about this painting and I might just gasp, "EGAD! Quick get the gesso!"

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