I am continuing to work in my graduate school class. Prior to spring break I was frustrated with the class, and frustrated with the boring still life. And frustrated with a je ne sais quoi.
I thought about this over the break and realized that what the frustration was is this, I had done a solid six weeks of review of the principles of painting realistically and color mixing and remembrance of painting copies of masters; I had also begun the journey of looking at other artists again, and being inspired by someone other than those painters we all know, but okay enough articles and books about them already. (Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh Gauguin, O’Keeffe etc). I purchased a French Easel and a wet canvas box, and had the ability to travel with my oil paints, and am beginning to paint en plein air. The frustration was that it was a review, right? And I wanted to split off and do MY work with a new focus and new ideas and ways of improving it.
My two plein air paintings above, neither are complete.
I felt more attached to the tree picture, so after speaking with the professor about some abstraction possibilities similar to perhaps Charles Birchfield or Emily Carr I began to add some abstraction. Which I am still working on. I wanted to stick to similar natural colors and not go into the abstract brights I typically in my pallet, so I used some Williamsburg Italian Yellow Ochre, Burnt Umber a touch of Permanent Green and some Naples Yellow Hue and Gamblin Titanium White to begin to play with the trees in the background.
We discussed painting en plein air, then abstracting in studio, and returning to the place to paint again en plein air.Or perhaps painting abstractly on location. There was a sense of Zen-ness, of being where you are and experiencing the sounds, smells, and sights, (used condoms and salted minnows) and breathing in the air, talking to the fishermen that stop by or the State Conservation Officer. There is this other thing that goes on too. And this was like a light bulb, because it is absolutely correct, there is the state of what is happening in your head too, the thoughts you are having (and perhaps unlike Zen you are not just noticing and letting go but are instead deeply dwelling on them) You may get lost in remembering something someone said to you or an experience you had, or what is for dinner or the feeling of the sun on your neck and whether it will give you a sunburn or not, and finally what you are doing too, not just painting and talking to fishermen, but chasing the dog off the condom and minnows, or making sure she has water.
This head space is also what is happening when observing a painting. The interaction I recall from John Berger’s Way of Seeing is of two people, the artist and the observer, but the observer can get into the artist’s head space as well, what was the artist thinking, what was the artist’s intention. Then there is the painter, say Charles Birchfield showing the energy emanating around him in his painting, so you can sense the sounds of the insects and the wind, and feel the wind blowing across the canvas,
More thoughts on this later.