Saturday, August 07, 2010
Wood River and painting
After they took off on their canoes, Farm Boss and I explored the springs that make this river emerge from the ground as a river (very like the Metolius River further to the north), and then while he took off with the truck to explore a dirt road (one of his favorite things), I sat on the bank and did a small oil painting.
I always begin these not sure that they will come out. I have to make myself start but then it becomes interesting with how to make the colors, the shapes capture some of the energy of the place. My goal with all my painting lately is using the least number of strokes and colors to depict the energy of what I am seeing. With these little paintings, I am trying to paint whatever is there in one setting for better or worse.
Just as there are many ways to tell a story or make a movie from the same events, there are many ways to paint the same scene even with the same elements. A few examples would be realism (life like) where the painter might alter lighting and other elements to make the scene more exciting but still realistic (Da Vinci); abstract (non-objective) where it's all about shapes; colors and lines more than the literal scene (Pollock); surrealism where the artist goes beyond what is visual to create new images and colors inspired by the subject (Dali); primitivism where it's like a child did it (Moses); design or pop art where the artists reduces the subject to its basic elements and orders them (Hockney); or impressionism (Monet), postimpressionism (Van Gogh) where the scene is loosely painted, skimming over the details. What I enjoy the most to do, actually what I most like to buy also, is expressionism which means capturing the feeling more than the exact object or scene (Chagall).
Some artists cross back and forth between styles. Some don't like being labeled as one thing or another, but I don't see it as a limitation but rather helpful to think about the various styles as options for how to depict the same thing.
Because a lot of what I do is still being impacted by art classes I had many years ago at Portland State College, I look at the scene to decide what would best be the underlying color, that which will tie it all together. I lay in a thin wash over the whole canvas. Being thin, it dries fast. While doing that I consider which elements in front of me most catch my eye. They do not have to be close together. I am not taking a photograph.
In this painting, there were three such attractive elements-- the clear, deep blue-green water of the pool, magenta fireweed, and a bushy yellow flower that might be in the buttercup family but I am not sure. Another painter could be sitting beside me and find something totally different to emphasize and their style might make you wonder where we each had been. It is what makes an art show of plein air painting groups so enjoyable.
As I was painting, a couple came by and the woman said she was photographing the same subjects to paint in her studio during the winter. I might do some of that myself as I took a lot of photos. With the capability now to make DVDs and put them on our widescreen television, I think that will be more effective and much easier than it used to be with sketches and color notes as the only clues to remind me what I had seen when I am back at the easel. I think though that there is no substitute for painting right there when possible.
What I liked is the couple didn't ask to see what I was doing. I also respect the privacy of plein air painters, curious though I might be, as who knows what will end up happening or where the painting will have said all that was possible. For me, it's nice to paint with people who understand that.
For anyone interested in more about water miscible oils, I find them in many art and craft stores but often order from [Dick Blick] for ease and price. When I painted with acrylics, I liked their ease of use but never felt they had oil paint's depth of color. Too often my paintings ended up flat looking to me. Now I get the best of both with these water miscible oils and no carrying linseed oil or turpentine when out in the field. Water based oils are thinned and cleaned with water and although they smell like oils, no turpentine/linseed oil odors add to it. They take about as long to dry as oils which is a big advantage if working on a painting over a period of time. One complaint I had with acrylics was if I wanted to come back to a painting, the values in particular wouldn't be easy for me to match. The colors and values with oils don't change or if they do some, it's not a problem for me in the painting.