16 April 2010

Farm in Fog to False Spring - the transition

False Spring
watercolor inks on Arches
24" x 18"


False Spring aka Farm in Fog came to be after seeing it in person on a chilly February afternoon, in light rain and grey mist. I pulled out the digital and began the first phase of my system: Photos, thoughts, more thoughts, stare at photos, bring back the memory and feel again how it felt emotionally and physically finally masking off the Arches paper and get down with my friendly plain old Number 2 pencils.

As the drawing developed I became enchanted with the chimney, you'll note it is a corner arrangement likely opening into a kitchen fireplace for warmth and cooking, with another, maybe smaller fireplace in the sleeping quarters. There was no propane tank to be seen anywhere in the real life version. I so like the idea of one corner chimney for two separate, but similar needs.

The stages of development shown here are in order, there are many more photos, but these are the most "postable" of the total group that define each of the phases involved. I like the second stage very much, before it is placed in a specific geography, it could be Nantucket, that could be an ocean beyond the shed, it could be a "lonely somewhere" Edward Hopper might have thought to sketch. Its always like that after the drawing part, before more saturated color and background details are applied giving it life and a place uniquely its own.

My favorite time is when the unexpected occurs which is typical of watercolor no matter how often you work with it. You get to know a bit about how to control it if it is your main medium, but its always got something new to show you. There are a lot of artists who like to know their medium's limits, which is good, it allows them to preview mentally their statement. Personally, I prefer the way watercolor insists you solve the situation at hand, relentlessly, you must surrender to it and rule it simultaneously, knowing ultimately it will have its way and you will be okay with that.

There is something else about choice of medium that should be mentioned. Whatever "medium", and we will use that term meaning vehicle for expression, you or I use, does not really matter. Its just another way to say the same things said frequently in a more descriptive language - as in music or literature, poetry, philosophy, film, theater, three dimensional art and so forth. It might be that whatever is closest to you at the moment you get serious about what you have to do to survive within the journey of our common humanity is the medium of your surrender and most frequent use, since through it you have learned to speak a nonverbal language that communicates on a higher plane than common words strung together for conversational coherence.

Now its starting to look something like the original intent, but there is more to be done. Its good to put it aside a few days and do something else unrelated, so that when you return you are seeing it new all over again and forced to revisit your mind's eye. What can you do to satisfy all the criteria remaining true to the original vision while adding your own take to the mix? The days and hours spent focusing on other things, issues, people, chores, studying Nature, wildlife, walking, collecting rocks and feathers, reading, have their impact too. Sometimes you don't see it until revisiting the completed work, months, sometimes years, far into the future. Suddenly, you will remember other things that were happening at the same time you were painting. Its unavoidably another part of the image, the you part, the artist and the events, near and far, that took place while you worked.

You'll know instinctively when your task is finished and the criteria met. I usually place it on the mantle and live with it for a while. This is usually when a different title occurs because a transformation has taken place. The ending of the transformation is almost as good as the middle which is as good as the beginning.

Finally, off comes the masking tape and it's slowly X-acto-ed from the Arches watercolor block, signed and dated. Simultaneously another one has already begun. It is most productive to have several going on at once, then you can paint while the others are drying.


Pangolin said...

I was immediately drawn to the missing boards in the shed wall and the flaws in the sheet metal roofing. Bits you live with because it's good enough as it is and there is other work pressing.

The oak branches fading into the mist between the house and shed is also particularly interesting. Over the rise, in the mist, something......

chickory said...

It's rare that one shares the thought process in creating a work of art..i agree that at the first color stage it is indeed very hopperesque -spare..and the faded color, though a cooler palette, brings to mind Wyeth. in fact, we could plop Christina right down in the silver grasses.

what i see in this work, as in many of your pieces, are silent witnesses in the old structures and trees, the enduring landscape and the fragility of everything. i think an old home place taps into everyones sense of "enough" - can there be painting such as this for a 3 story stucco in an atlanta suburb? i dont think so.''

as i mentioned in DIALW, i adore the green sky and the way you used lavender and a rather hot pink to indicate rust - and as you mentioned - your looking stage must have surely included this observation. and the oaks! you did a great job of showing the individuals as just that - no generalizing here.



i am struggling in painting now. i am way out of my comfort zone. I am in a group show may 6, and i am behind on my work. i hate pressure in art. i decided to do a set of paintings from my garden scans. what i did was isolate some nice compositions from the larger scan and format them in squares. then i gridded them and transferred the drawing to a larger canvas. now i am on my second one, (i need two more after this) and i am really sorry i started this.

its acrylic and what a pain in the ass it is to get nice transitions in colors with this ridiculous paint! its like trying to move plastic snot around. right now, i am working on the pear blossoms - mostly white and green. no more white after this! dear God. the pink one went much easier - its forgiving in a way that white petals showing light and shadow is not.

i decided to do this because i had gotten kind of lazy -doing what i do without thinking very much. i decided to go back to observation and it is hard -i want to skim through or generalize - but i am making myself not do that.

this is something you do well.

thanks for this post. i really enjoyed it.

nina said...

Pangolin: Hahahaha that's how we live. too. At first I thought it was some kind of craftsman's trademark, everything had to stop at 4/5ths complete. Later, I understood it to be a simple case of sharing a home with the shoemaker.

If that is how you see the background, that is an amazing compliment. Thank you.

nina said...

Chickory, you observe correctly, I pressed to get the Historic Preservation people interested and discovered they were a sort of monthly bridge klatch with film celebrity gueststars.

Pressure in art is like pressure in anything else, always unnecessary and in vain. Its especially worthless applied to any area in which you have some expertise. Pressure seems to be a self-defeating force.

Pangolin said...

Many years ago a fellow student taught me to look at every painting and tell the story I saw out loud. She could do it with abstracts and you'd believe her stories.

I've noticed that the worst thing that can happen to art is to have the story in your head finish shortly after you look at it. The really good stuff has a corner somewhere that leaves you going wtf?

Never, ever, "finish" a painting. That's all I ask.