Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Rothko Homage

I was watching mtv's cribs on the weekend and Tricia Helfer's home was featured. She breezed by a fantastic painting referring to it as her Rothko. After a little bit of internet research, i have a brand new addition to my list of fave artists.

I love the way i react to Rothko's colours and their layers emotionally even though they don't necessarily evoke memories, deep thoughts or anything in particular. The don't require interpretation, they just evoke emotion.

I wouldn't consider my attempt entirely successful. Partly because of suspect technique and also because of my struggles with colours. How is it possible to be affected by colours but unable recreate them? I suspect i need to be patient and apply many layers. And also try to avoid muddling them somewhere along the way.

I started my painting on a sheet of Strathmore cold pressed 140 lb paper, running a Chinese mop brush all around the outside border wetting the paper about an inch wide all around the outside of the sheet. Then with another brush, undiluted pale cadmium red was added to the wet area, but only on the outside centimetre of the inch wide border. At this point the trouble with watercolour began. The edges of my sheet curled up and because my wet border was so wet, the water ran from the curled up edge to the middle of the sheet. Lesson: try to pre-wet the border evenly so water isn't pooling. Make sure the paper has soaked up the water.

I also thought that using paper that is stretched would keep it from curling and buckling from being wet. So i started another version that i'd complete in parallel. The second version being done on the top sheet of a watercolor block of Arches 140 lb paper. Again the outside border of the paper was wetted about an inch wide. And again the pale cad red was added to the wetted border undiluted. This block of stretched paper didn't allow the wet paper to buckle and the paint didn't run outside of where i wanted it. I waited overnight for both sheets to dry.

I used the same technique to apply the rectangles as was used for pale cad red border. I decided to make the yellow rectangle 1/3 of the sheet of paper, based solely on the rule of thirds, though i doubt Rothko ever used a principal so unnaturally. The paper was wetted and then lemon and cadmium yellow was mixed and applied to the wet rectangle undiluted.

On the Rothko painting i was referencing, the pink rectangle looked like it was about half the sheet, but not quite. I didn't want to risk cutting the sheet in half, so decided to make the pink area 2/5 of the sheet instead of closer to half. The 2/5 area was wetted and then an undiluted mixture of Indian red and Chinese white was applied to the wet paper. This layer was very transparent and looked more brown than pink, so an undiluted mix of cad red and Chinese white was applied to that while the original layer was still wet.

The black strip on both sheets was made in the same way. A wet line was drawn across the paper with a big brush and then a smaller brush added undiluted ivory black. The undiluted paint diffused into the wet area.

When both sheets were dry, i re-did the pale cad red border on both paintings.

I like both paintings, but not for the same reason i like Rothko's. So that's why i can't consider the exercise entirely successful. The runs and squiggles that resulted from loose watercolour technique are interesting and will probably beg the viewer to "interpret" them as if they were purposeful. They look like landscapes to me. I want the colours to be something more than they are here. Next time i'll go slower and apply multiple layers.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mixed up Slazenger

I made this painting in response to a call for submissions by the Alberta Sports Council. It's a tennis player, but that's not obvious to everyone, so i hope they will like it and see it's relavent.

To make this one, i firstly used green painters tape to block out the area that would be the ball. Then i painted the racket area around it. The person was blocked-in with pale cadmium red. Then the round and box shapes were roughed-in in blue. I wanted them to lead the eye back to the racket and ball and create a repetitive rhythm of the ball. Even though extra layers of all the shapes were made after the first layer was dry, it still didn't pop and looked flat. So finally i wetted the whole paper and used a black Derwent coloured pencil to outline the shapes. I finally removed the green painters tape and splashed in the yellow. Plastic food wrap was lay on top the yellow ball shape as it dried. When it was dry the wrap was removed and I filled-in the wrap resulting pale areas with a cadmium yellow. After that was dry, the ball area was wetted again and the black Derwent pencil outlined the shape.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Great Day

I'm having a great day! It suddenly dawned on me how to make this blog more successful. It's a pretty simple idea, but just a different frame of mind than i had before. If i want this to be a medium for communicating with fellow artists, i have to develop those relationships and then maybe they'll visit here. Before i was just hoping they'd discover this blog. So i'll work on growing relationships.

I also got a couple more calls to show the house that will be vacant in May. Di and i were considering lowering the price because we haven't had any interested renters inquiring over the last couple days. But that slowness was probably on account of the Easter holiday. I'm still confident we can get that place rented on time.

I'm experimenting on the backside of a "unsuccessful" painting. I put vertical green painters tape strips down to keep part of the paper white, and then put wet indian red and burnt umber paint on wet paper in between the stripes. After that dried, i put ivory black and intense blue where the green tape had been.

The whole thing still had a pretty flat tonal range, so ivory black was put over parts of the indian red and burnt umber strips too. I thought it was still lacking something, maybe texture? So i taped plastic food wrap over the paper and tried to drip ivory black paint down the backside of the film wrap between the film and the paper. This added texture on the areas where the paper had buckled from being wet and not being stretched and it touched the film. This created texture horizontally because the paper had buckled horizontally. I also ran my finger nail down the length film over some of the strips and that created even more markings on the paper.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Realism Attempt

Lastnight i was working on this painting. I started by making a drawing with some Derwent water colour pencils. I looked at a photo i'd taken of a friend as the basis for the drawing. I was reasonably happy with the drawing. Then i used a big ol' mob brush to wet the drawing and intended to use cellafilm wrap to add texture. But the probably too wet mop brush erased almost the whole drawing. All the lines diffused and dispersed on the wet paper. So i had to draw it again after the paper dried. I tried using a smaller wet brush to again make it look more like a painting than a pencil crayon drawing. Again it diffused too much, even though i used a significantly drier and smaller brush. So i tried applying the Derwent water colour pencils to the wet paper and it left larger more permanent markings that didn't diffuse with brushwork. These are the markings that are visable now. The whole thing wasn't as pleasing as my original drawing, so i was quite disappointed. It was bed time, so i thought WTF i might as well try something else, so i used the big brush and some dark blue and black paint and applied broad strokes around the eyes, nose and mouth. It didn't look too bad. When i looked at it this morning, i was really pleased with it. It doesn't look close enough to my original photo of my friend to be recognizable though, so in that respect i'm pretty disappointed, even though i'm quite happy with the colour and styling. I photoshopped a picture of the painting and enlarged the eyes, nose and mouth and that looks a little more like the friend. But the original painting is finished the way it is.

First Day

Today is the first day of the rest of my life. Haha, that is pretty cliche sounding, but so true. Too bad words of wisdom are so familiar they don't seem very insightful. Like the main point of every book on becoming wealthy is save 10% of your salary. Whenever i hear it, i'm like yeah, yeah what else do have to say? Maybe if i would just do that and stop looking for something easier or maybe more secretive, or i don't know why everyone just doesn't do it? Requires discipline i guess? Anyway getting back to the point is that today i'm a painter.

I've been painting the last couple evenings, and had a couple pretty successful paintings come from it. I'd like to keep it up. It seems purposeful. That i'm just not wasting days, nights, weeks waiting for my next vacation. That sounds pretty bad reading it back. Like i don't have a good relationship with my partner. Well i'm probably guilty of not trying hard enough sometimes and that's why it sounds so bad. But everyone needs alone time and it would be good if it doesn't feel wasted.

So doing these last couple paintings makes me want to continue on a regular basis. I don't know how acclaimed this work will be, but if i put in my previously mentioned 10,000 hours, i should become somewhat proficient, at least to myself. I am a painter.

Off again on a tangent, which i feel at ease doing because my audience here is so easy going, I wonder when people say "just be yourself" when performing, or producing some sort of art, that if some people are more commercially viable being themselves than others. I mean obviously the king of pop appeals to more people than the guy in the park spinning around in circles and howling at the tree tops, but is Oprah being herself when she does her favourite things show or book club selections, which produce obvious kickback opportunities. I've heard if you're not yourself, people will know you're ingenuine, if not consciously then intuitively just not like you.

Can i name drop paper or paint brands in my painting blog and still be myself and potentially get some kick backs like Oprah, or is that kind of thing ingenuine? Maybe it depends on how much i really love a paint brand. And also if my audience likes my work, and would like to know how i did it? But is that being me, or is it ingenuine? Maybe people like Oprah or Rachel Ray are great successes because they are genuine and genuinely a commercial success, but perhaps other folks who are being themselves just aren't succeeding because there is no commercial component to their self. What if someone is great and people love that genuine person, but they started plugging something? Would that make them ingenuine and turn those who previously loved them off?