Monday, June 15, 2009

Just Thoughts, No Images

Good to see you Diane! And Don, I concur (as I think we all do) that we can post or discuss whatever as it relates to painting. I am always interested in hearing about your forays into new surfaces, etc. I tried out Marc's recipe but there was a little too much texture/grab in my mix, I think. I really felt like I was chewing up my brushes. I don't know if it was the modelling paste mix or the pumice mix, but next time I am going to adjust downward on one or both. That being said, they were miles better than the cheapie storebought prerprimed panels, even with acrylic gesso OR oil priming over them. Apparently I like a little, but not a lot, of grab on my surface. Good to know. Makes a difference in how I feel about painting, whether I want to go out and do it again if it's all just been a struggle.
I have done three of the 4-panel studies now, and plan to do at least 5 or six more, because that is how many panels I have prepared for this exercise, and NOT because I have been particularly successful at them. Indeed, I mostly think they suck and I think you might agree (if I could get my stupid camera's memory card to behave-- will post when I can). HOWEVER, I am learning so much in an indirect way that I keep wanting to get out there again despite the lack of perceived success. For instance:
1. I couldn't find a scene that grabbed me, settled for something that didn't, and never developed a concept. Failed to simplify into simple shapes. Happy to recognize this.
2. The next time out, I drove and drove and drove, never getting grabbed and complainting about the flat light. Eventually lost my nerve to paint, dissipated away.....and didn't paint.
3. The next one I went out to a neighborhood park about 6:30 am when the sun was strong, the shadows long, and the people few-- or so I thought. Wrong on all counts. Who knew the spot I'd picked would be the main route for all joggers and bikers, including 12 separate people that I knew and who stopped to chat! Meanwhile, the sun changes fast at that time of day, and whatever shadows I thought I'd be using for compositional cues just disappeared. Pouff!
4. the last time I went out, I went about noon so as to not mess with moving shadow shapes, did not drive all over hell and just picked a spot I'd been to previously, and just did it. I think I got the simple shapes right, and I think I got the values right. Success!? It was at this point I remembered, too late, about concept -- there was none, and nothing in that little painting was interesting to me. So, 2/3 on this one.
And so -- lessons learned from all this? Don is right about concept and value both being great lessons to learn, and which I am still working on doing consistently. I must set aside my frustration with application and color, and just be pleased to work on these few things. But the biggest success may just be that I went out and did it. The fear thing is a strong thing for me, and if I can get over that, I can learn anything.


  1. Great post.

    1) on the panel recipe, pumice makes it rougher and the modeling paste makes it smoother (or really, less absorbent). My friend Steve Armes has a similar panel recipe and a demo of the process here:

    b) You might like the book "Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway" by Susan Jeffers. I'm a big fan of books such as this if you want any other recommendations. I also like Not to mention that Marc's painting marathon is worth re-reading for advice on the dilemmas of finding subject matter like you describe above.

  2. I notice that Armes reverses the order of the DE layer and the modelling paste from what Marc does. Which order are you using?

    I am very interested in the psychology of (not) painting (as well as not dieting, not exercising, etc.) and am finding that I habitualize many behaviors that get in my own way....

  3. I'm using Marc's method. As I get into it, I'm sure I'll experiment around with it a bit. I just did a batch last night and put in more pumice powder to see how I like that. Steve's method makes a very absorbent panel.

  4. As to the psychology of not painting, etc.: for me the proportion of time spent in virtual activity instead of actual activity seems to be increasing with age. Overcoming inertia is harder.
    Sometimes I allow myself to be distracted from my main mission. I haven't gone as far as writing a mission statement but here's what it sounds like in my head: "will this (fill in the blank) activity keep me from the studio or plein air?" If so, often I try to put it off/get out of it or say "no". It comes down to priorities and planning my time. I still have to go to work and I still have to be sociable but for the most part it's work and art (or, as Janet points out, thinking about art).
    I like having deadlines--a competition to enter, a painting to post for the blog, a show to propose/install.
    Another thing I think about is that I want whatever I'm painting to turn out well and yet, my shortcomings are obvious, so at some point it becomes "good enough" or "the best I can do at the time". This can discourage me from being eager to get back at it. Articulating what it is that would make my painting better is difficult but probably a vital part of becoming a better painter.
    What gets in your way?


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.