Wednesday, October 02, 2019

An Experiment

I'm forever trying new experiments in creating artworks.  Sometimes they play out pretty well.  For the past three years, I've been doing a series of charcoal and pastel portraits and figures.  That started with an experiment and is still going on.  Other experiments are outright failures.  And that's fine, because then I learn about something that doesn't work, at least for me, and I can take that knowledge and move on.

Lots of artists work in a very intuitive way.  They start with some little nugget of an idea, it gets put on canvas, and then other ideas pop up and are incorporated, or deleted, or changed, until the artist is satisfied with what's there.  They could not have told you, at the beginning, what was going to happen.  They had no idea.

I don't work that way.  I'm pretty deliberate: the painting has to have an end goal in mind with a plan for how to get there.  Then it's a matter of executing the plan.  Yes, there are adaptations along the way as new ideas pop up, or something doesn't look right, or whatever, but the end result is pretty much along the lines of my initial goal.  "Intuitive" is not a way of working that I'm comfortable with.  I've done it before, usually as a class assignment, and have never been happy with the results.

So I thought it might be time to try it again.  The idea was to start with a figure, since I'm a figurative artist, and then see where it would go.  And here's what happened (click on it to see a larger version):

Siren on the Styx
Oil on panel, 16x20

Is it a success?  I don't know.  I have no idea if this painting means anything.  It just developed.  I started with the figure - it came from a photo session with one of my regular studio models.  Then she had to be in some sort of environment, and a river or lake came to mind.  At first, she was on a grassy slope with a blue sky above, but that didn't feel right.  Maybe a threatening storm would counterbalance the liveliness of the dance.  But then the green grassy slope went away and turned into rocks in the foreground.  The trees on the far side of the lake/river were too green, so I changed the lighting and grayed them down.  That meant the trees on the left had to be toned down, too.  The composition needed something on the right, something that she might be looking at.  Her drapery gave me the idea of a sailboat, specifically a gaff-rigged sloop, a style that was obsolete 150 years ago.  Then the left side needed something else, since the green slope was just kinda blah.  So now there's a promontory with a castle tower overlooking the lake/river.  Then it was a matter of going around, cleaning things up, and tying them together.

So this is a question for you.  What do you think of it?  Success?  Fail?  What works and what doesn't?

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