Saturday, September 29, 2018

Sizes, the Comfort of Painting, and Another Lesson

I spent a little more time in the studio yesterday morning making a bit more progress on “Grassy Marshlands.” I also did some work on “Path through the Dunes.”

Both scenes have their own challenges, especially as they are totally different. The first is lots of grass with a meandering stream leading towards the mountains. Lots of various shades of greens (and other grassy colors) and trees. The second is a sand dune with a path over the dune to the river. Different landscape and terrain.

What dawned on me this morning, and maybe one of the causes of my struggles, is that the four paintings in process on the easels are all bigger than I usually do. Yes, I’ve done a couple of bigger paintings before, but generally like to stay around the 11 x 14-inch size. The current ones are different sizes between 12 ½ to 21 ½ inches.

Since I started working in charcoal, then pastel, I randomly “tore” the 21 x 31 sheets into smaller pieces, sometimes getting as many as four paintings out of one sheet. The randomness of the tear made them various sizes which I used as one of my quirks. The last portions I did was closely tearing the big sheet in half.

I’ve talked before about how each painting is its own journey, and that there’s always something to learn. I realized that once I started these last four paintings, I’m not comfortable working on this bigger size. (I’ve always been amazed by these artists who do painting in sizes of feet! That’s not for me.) And now I’ve figured out that even the sizes on the easels are too big for my style.

Here is what I’m discovering for myself in working on a larger scale. (I write this and laugh because it’s not really that much bigger than what I prefer, but just those few inches make a difference in my comfort.)

I’m not a total impressionist, so there’s the balance between “blur” and sharp lines which seems to be more difficult on a bigger canvas. A bigger painting means standing back farther to see the whole painting (and in a small studio means bumping into other things.) What I see as mistakes stand out more. Also, the bigger the pictures, the more cost of matting and framing. And, I suppose I should admit, there’s often a lot of self-doubt during the process.

So, to I keep pushing out of my comfort zone and go big?

The other option on my mind is to choose a consistent size, keeping all my paintings the same size. If I choose a conventional size, matting and framing would be cheaper. My technique would hone to that size.

I’ve never been much for convention. I strive to do things my way, finding out what works for me. I don’t want to be like everyone else or do it like other artists. I want my own twist, my unique quirk. Working alone means a lot of trial, error and making discoveries. Sometimes I stumble. But, for the most part, I am always amazed and pleased at the finished painting!

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