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.

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