Friday, March 12, 2010

Some process chat…

It's been a long time since I added a comment to a post. I got so I didn't see the point; the painting IS the comment. But today I got an actual question, not about one of my posts here, but in response to yesterday's post at my "other paintings" blog (the Chakra Gardening Series, shown above), and I think my reply is relevant here, so here it is:

Cheryl wrote:

How quickly are you able to make one of these paintings? What is the
average time to just paint them out from start to finish not including
drying time? I am just amazed at your output. How many hours do you put in each day?

I replied:

The short answer is that these were quick, all done yesterday, and all at once, but I could never have done that without the practice and evolution that's resulted from doing my daily Eyes and Skies paintings for the last 8 months. If you look at how those have evolved, you'll see that these are just larger versions of some of the more recent dailies. Here's links to several Facebook albums of the dailies, which are the easiest way to see the group:

The first 200 (albums can only have 200 images)

The next album

The latest dailies in that second link are clearly the parents of the pieces I just posted. I've reached a point with the dailies where I now want to do larger versions in the same vein, which has not been the case until quite recently.

The longer answer is that some pictures go fast and some go slow. Size matters, but not that much; some big pix go much faster than some small ones. Part of that is simply because of what's involved in any given idea. If there's any careful rendering of a referenced image, that's very slow, with careful drawing and masking. Or if the impulse I start with calls for a lot of detail or complexity, that will take time, whether it's all improvised or not. But also, some pictures just don't go well and it can take a while to wrestle them to the mat, so to speak. I've always worked with the idea that any painting can be fixed if it starts to be frustrating, and that most paintings have to go through an ugly phase to come out looking good. So I don't throw in the towel often, nor insist on spontaneity; just the appearance of it…

I've always also preferred the improvisation/free-play process to the planning/referencing process; it's just more fun even if riskier and harder to turn into a formula. It's more physically satisfying to me, and the results seem more personal and more self-revealing, as well as more surprising, which I require; easily bored! I also think there's more of a sense of seeing a performance with an improvised piece, more energy, movement and action than in a rendered-from-a-reference image. And I like that. So, the dailies, like all my current work, reflect my interest in moving more and more towards pure improvisation. The problem in the past was how random and how scattered my improvised results seemed to me; planning and references fix that, but the cost is high and the results just more predictable, not better.

So, what I'm learning from my dailies is:
*What my improvised "style" currently is; my brush signature, my collection of active personal marks, shapes and symbols.

*What my preferred "theme" currently is: non-specific landscapes with a sense of captured weather and the energy of Nature.

*The benefits of preparing (pre-mixing) a palette of colors in advance. I don't do this per picture; I now have a lot of prepared multi-well palettes, some of premixes and some of straight tube colors, laid out and let dry like pans. It's like having a lot of different pastels ready in large racks, and I select different racks for different images. But by the time any image is finished, I've usually dragged out different palettes and done a lot of mixing from them. This is a very new approach for me and I'm both really liking it and making up new ways of doing it with every new piece.

*How vital daily, or at least regular, painting is! The more performance-oriented my practice is, the more practice counts. I have to get into and stay in a groove, and it doesn't take long to slip out of the groove. Slipping out means reverting to older, less fresh-seeming impulses. That can also prove interesting, but better to intend to revisit some older themes/practices, than to default to them, I think. But there's a larger sense of being in the groove that the dailies have been central to, and that has to do with reducing the dud volume to almost nil. By no means all pieces flow smoothly from start to end, with no backtracking, scrubbing out or reworking, but more and more do. And THAT'S the real groove for me: Direct self-to-paper manifestation! Grooves, of course, are traps if you're an improvisor, but they're great when fresh. And of course, not all images are equally interesting when finished, no matter how easily they come. But the more you do, the more winners you'll get. You have to be out on the highway to get a ride. And besides, it's not my job to pick the winners, just to keep producing contenders.

*How important it is to have several prepared papers at hand (i.e. stretched and primed--I use dilute mat acrylic medium to improve lifting). I used to rely on hair-dryers but now rarely use one. Instead I switch to another piece, either to let one dry or just take a break until I know what to do with it next. So I like to have several pieces in process at the same time.

I don't often get to paint every day, and almost never all day, so yesterday was an exception; I started painting early and went all day. More typically I get in a half-day painting, when I can. So the dailies aren't actually done daily; they're done in batches when I can; I've got dailies ready to go right now for the next 2 weeks or so, which gives me the time to do these larger pieces, which was the point all along. And, of course, to do the day job.

So, as you can see, it's taken me quite a long time to learn how to do a quick painting. And the target keeps moving, which is the best part…

Thanks for asking!


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