Monthly Archives: January 2010

The Art Of Subtraction

This week we did, in class, a still life with fruit. Unfortunately, for reasons that don’t really matter, I was completely uninspired and bereft of creative thoughts and my painting showed it. It was too dark & unfocused, in other words a real mess. As I have discovered, however, painting is a process of problem solving and when I have something that is destined for the garbage I like to play a little and see what I can do. From my workshop with Stephen Quiller this summer I was very impressed by how much he uses ‘subtraction’ in his work. In other words he frequently lays on paint and then lifts some of it out. In some of his demos he would lay a cool neutral wash over the entire paper and then lift out sections in which he would paint very bright trees for example. It was a natural and planned part of his painting process. In the above painting I thought rather than throw it out directly I would engage in some lifting. I found the result very interesting. The lifting is particularly visible in the fruit on the left which I felt became a very interesting shape. The dark fruit on the left went from basically a dark blob to a dark blob with some character. This particular work may still make it’s way to the garbage but it certainly became a different experience after extensive lifting out.

It’s wonderful how we can gain some knowledge from almost any experience if we keep our minds open.

Using A Mother Colour

This version of the same scene was done primarily in class. It uses another approach to colour, namely, using a mother colour. In this case the mother colour was phthalo turquoise. Every colour used in this picture contains some phthalo turquoise. Personally, over the years, I have had some difficulties managing my colour choices so I have appreciated having limitations on the colours I use. It has enabled me to gain a better understanding of colour.


Analagous Colour Schemes

These paintings use exactly the same composition and 2 different analagous colour schemes. It helped me to have a limited palette like this. It enabled me to concentrate more on the value. I was particularly pleased with the composition. I took 2 old photos I had, one of the mountains and one of the foreground and combined them in composition that, I feel, holds together.

Altered Journal

Last January I was shown a really interesting way of recording the significant events for a full year. Towards the end of the year I became aware of the idea of Altered Books and I was intrigued to try to combine these 2 ideas ie record the significant events from the year in an artistically interesting way. The above image shows the front and back covers of my journal. It was a very spontaneous and liberating experience trying to start with the book’s graphics and then embellishing and playing with them. The front cover was done as a collaborative project with Susan Sauve. The back cover was a totally spontaneous, free form activity. I found this process a whole lot of fun.

Homer, Sargent & Turner

This summer I went to Stephen Quiller’s studio in Colorado to take a week long course on plein air painting in watercolour. It was an amazing time in many ways. One of the many asides that caught my attention was Steve’s mentioning the importance of 3 watercolourists from the 18th and 19th century, namely, Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent and J.M.W. Turner. I have just finished doing my own reading of each of them and I was completely inspired by them all. They each, in their own way, pushed the art of watercolour forward by the strength of their vision and the vast breadth of their efforts. One common characteristic is that each was passionate about travel and recording their impressions of everywhere they visited. They literally lived to paint and painted to live. They worked extensively and continually out doors and were consumed by capturing the feeling of everything they saw. No object or scene was too small or too grand to interest them. They also blazed new paths in terms of watercolour technique. Anything that would help them capture the subject was used. It’s also interesting that in each case, though their big oils were perhaps their most famous works it was in their watercolours that they displayed a certain spontaneity and intimacy that was perhaps closest to their true nature. The above image is my copy of one of Winslow Homer’s paintings from his visits to Quebec.