"The true painter strives to paint what can only be seen through his world." ~André Malraux

After a year of intermittant "painter's block"  I am working again in my studio, and feeling in a tentative positive state. Painting is a solitary activity, and as artists, we are often working in a vacuum. Unless we have a show hanging, reaction to the work is minimal. With several pieces underway, I decided that perhaps if I write about what I am doing or am attempting to do, it might act somewhat as a muse for me as well as give me some feedback on the work I am creating -- hence the establishment of this blog. 

As for the blog title, traditional, representational painting is a language for expressing what’s visible. But I feel my work is the most successful, and most interesting, when focused on things not entirely visible. I paint what I see but also what I sense and feel by utilizing my interior and unseen world --- in other words, the invisible world. Plein air work or  studio work from photographs are only touchstones or landmarks which guide me to other inner spaces. By so doing, I find that I am pushing the boundaries between representational and abstract work.

You can enlarge the images in this blog by clicking on them.

May 19, 2011

A Post Without a Picture

  I do not paint by (or live by) any hide-bound formulas. I cannot copy someone else's color palette or mixing formulas and make it work for me. I find that my paintings cannot come from the outside --  they must come from the inside – from what is not entirely visible to anyone else. What I have learned over the years has now become second nature, and much of the time I could not begin to tell you what I am doing as i paint or why. And absolutely whatever I have learned and internalized is the result of MANY failures, which still happen with much regularity, probably because I do not use any formulas!  I paint like I cook.  My color awareness is intuitive. I would be hard pressed to write down any formulas or exact proportions.  It's like cooking to taste rather than following a recipe.

Perhaps because I am so recently returned from the red rock country of Sedona, I am feeling the need to play around with earth tones in the studio this week. I have not yet begun a painting of the scenery we saw in Arizona, but I am working with  that palette in my latest  painting which is an abstracted close-up composition of unglazed terra cotta ewers and pots.

I am reaching back to what I learned in my color theory class those many years ago at Skidmore (most of which I have forgotten)  as I mix my terra cotta  reds and the complimentary greens and blue greys ---  one pot will be a warm, dark earth red with a tendency towards blue; another with hints of viridian in it, and another almost white. You can buy pre-mixed tubes of paint with names like red ocher, red oxide, Mars red, terra rosa, red earth, but I am just using cadmium red medium cadmium yellow medium for a warm oranges, and adding hints of ochre or burnt sienna, and using complimentary  greens to pull out the brightness of the terra cotta. 

For this painting, I have on my palette a warm red and a cool red (Cadmium red medium and Alizarin); a warm yellow and a cool yellow (Cadmium Yellow Medium and Light and also Ochre); a warm blue and a cool blue (warm is Ultramarine, and cool is Cobalt) as well as staples Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna and Titanium white. But then I added a few more --- as far as I am concerned, using only a few or using a lot of paint colors is neither a good thing or a bad thing. Sometimes a few extra colors already in the tube can help you save time you need to get a painting that really sings. In this case, to my basic palette I added Viridian green, Old Holland’s warm grey, a translucent lake orange and before I end this painting I will be mixing something to get black--- maybe two complimentaries like Alizarin and Viridian, or Phthalo blue and umber, not sure yet, but I will be needing some very dark  “lowlights,” as my hairdresser says, in this painting. I find I'm constantly discovering more nuances and colors with my mixing, and I begin to think after 55 years of oil painting that the combinations and possibilities are inexhaustible!

I like to use a lake paint for the final glazing.

I most often build my paintings from dark to light because I find that applying purer light colors over the darker glazes, when done successfully, creates a warm luminosity in paintings and makes them zing.  However, in this particular painting, the white pot was done just the opposite--- dark over light. I guess I am not very good at living by rules. The result is a continuous accidental learning which constantly shapes my life! Many of my successes I term "happy accidents."

The painting is not yet ready to show by a long shot. But it will appear here in due time. Because I am going down to Connecticut to a family wedding this weekend, and because the gardens are needing me right now whenever it does not rain, it may be a while before I have progressed enough on this painting to show it to you.

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