At sunrise this morning (6:15 a.m.), the sky was not inspiring. However, I sat by my window and kept watching. This process can be really tedious, because I cannot look away, even for a few seconds; I might miss an important flash of color that’d inspire a painting.
For about 20 minutes, the sky was gray and the snow looked brownish, as it does in late winter when it’s melting and the surface is dirty.
(Note: When I like the color grey, I spell it grey. When I don’t, I choose the preferred American spelling, gray.)
Anyway, for just a few minutes — maybe 1 1/2 minutes, total — the sky had some color. The clouds were blue and white and lavender , with touches of pink and peach. The snow changed from a brownish tint to something more peachy. And, the hills in the background seemed to flash a wide range of colors, including blue, green and orange.
So, I grabbed my palette and brushes, and the resulting sketch is above. It’s a 9″ x 12″ canvas, wrapped so the colors extend around the sides and the painting doesn’t have to be framed. (But, I probably will frame all of these, later.)
(Note: I’m experimenting with different ways to post my brief comments. Yesterday, I tried a flash player. Today, this is an uploaded MP3, but it opens in the same window, no matter how I code it. So, I’ll probably go back to the flash version, for the future. If you feel strongly about either approach to embedding a recording, please leave a comment below.)
This is one of those sketches that went just a little too far, and I had to backtrack quickly to recapture the original energy. Luckily, I was successful. (More often, it’s better to wipe the paint off the canvas — or at least the area that I’d spoiled — and try again.)
For me, it’s always a tricky balance between “just right” and tweaking something so it’s technically more precise… but the initial energy is gone.
I’m getting better at making that decision, but I’m not 100% accurate with it, yet.
At left, you can see the some details from the middle of the canvas. The pinkish colors are where the cadmium red (underpainting) shows through.
In general, I look at this canvas, and the mood and blending remind me of William Blake. I’m okay with that, although — as a child — I grew up looking at my mother’s books of William Blake’s work, and they seemed really dark and creepy to me.
So anyway… for the past couple of days, I’ve left cadmium orange off my palette. I don’t miss it. I’m not sure that I’ll continue with this limited palette, but I ‘ll see how well this works in future paintings.
The colors I used were (from left to right on my palette): French ultramarine blue, cadmium red, cadmium yellow, lemon yellow, and pthalo blue. I also use titanium white, which looks like a long squeeze of toothpaste across the bottom of my palette. (Alizarin was on my palette, but I didn’t need it for this painting.)
I used five brushes, and most of them were filberts (rounded tips). All were boar bristle. (One might have been synthetic boar bristle… but the idea is the same: It’s a stiff bristle that holds a lot of paint.)
For me, the brush strokes can be an important part of the work. That’s where I vary from many Tonalists, who often prefer a completely smooth, almost glassy-surfaced painting.
It’s also a little frustrating when I post my artwork online: If I sharpen the image so the brush strokes are clear, the impression of the colors seems askew. So, the online images aren’t quite what the paintings look like… but they’re close enough.
Each day, I find myself mixing more colors on the canvas. In fact, except for mixing the grey (French ultramarine blue + cad yellow) on the palette, almost all of the colors were pure pigment on my brush, and mixed as the brush dragged across the canvas.
I feel as if I’m recovering my artistic style. As I look back over the past year and what I was working on, I realize how much my inner artistic voice was suppressed by my efforts to please the client I was working for.
Note to aspiring art collectors: It’s as counter-productive to nag an artist as it is to nag a woman in labor. The creative process is best when it’s internally-driven. If you can’t not nag, buy your art at a gallery, not directly from the artist.
Oh, I’m always flattered when people ask if they can buy my paintings. That’s not what I’m talking about.
I mean clients who think frequent nagging encourages the artist to work faster. (It does, but the results probably won’t be inspired work.)
That said, at least 80% of my clients are wonderful to work with. They get what’s involved in the creative process, and they understand how to encourage it. The result is collaborative delight.
In the future, I’ll probably follow Monet’s example: I’ll accept subscriptions at a flat, predetermined rate. Then, the clients can visit my studio on a certain day, when I’ll have more than enough paintings for each to take one painting home. In the order that they subscribed, they’ll be able to select one painting — from my latest works — to take home.
I like that idea. I retain my autonomy as an artist, and the clients receive work that they’ve selected.
But, for now, I’m simply painting. I’m getting back in practice, and recovering my authentic voice as a painter. I also want to build a large enough body of work that my kids (and their children, and so on) will have an artistic legacy that represents me as an artist and as an individual.
Once I feel confident in that, I’ll think about gallery work again.