May 12, 2009
I spent years dragging my portable easel out to inspiring locations to paint. Although I managed to create a few interesting paintings, I threw away just as many failures. The changes of season, weather, and light caused any particular landscape to fluctuate enough so that I ended up with mud more often than not. Thus, I had to ask myself, how is it possible to capture anything eternal about what I am viewing?
One solution, I knew, was an impressionistic alla prima technique, and although its effects can be strikingly fresh, for better or worse, my own temperament is drawn to painting in layers, often termed “indirect painting”. Yet attempting to use an indirect technique for sequential forays of painting “en plein air” spelled trouble if I didn’t know fairly precisely where I wanted the painting to go.
Thus, I began to create fairly detailed studies both in watercolor and in pencil in order to understand what I felt and wanted to finally express in paint. Of the two approaches, I felt the (pencil, charcoal or ink) value study to be the most effective for describing my essential reaction to a view. The medium toned paper gives space for imagination to roam, inviting the perceiver in to participate in forms as they arise.
Alternatively, although it is clearly possible to take a photograph in order to capture “a moment” as preparation for a painting, photographs themselves are a mechanistic interpretation of visual reality, inevitably reducing three dimensional space to two. If I want to personally interact with the view before me, to dance with it, to make love to it, to merge with it, then the means needs to be an extension of my fingertips, vibrating with the energetic impulses of my own blood. This is in no way intended as a criticism of the fine art of photography, only a criticism of the use of photography as a means for a study upon which to base a painting.
When I have created a value study that resonates, then I transpose it to a panel and begin preparing for development of the painting.