Archive for October, 2010

Reworking erroneous alterations

Friday, October 15th, 2010

When a painting is “finished” enough to be given a title and inventory number, it may not have really been completed at all. I often have second … and third … and fourth … and even more … thoughts about a painting long after it has been set aside as complete. Usually, any subsequent changes I make are based on careful evaluation and are judiciously executed. Occasionally, however, I come to regret my alterations.

090105 Fritzie in Profile, version 1

In this early example of my work, the original painting (#090105) of a grey schnauzer, Fritzie, was largely pastel toned. I went against my better judgment and darkened the background to a mid-tone to comply with someone else’s suggestion. Although the dog’s white eyebrows show up better against the contrasting background, the painting lost its luminosity with the loss of the light background. The dog’s coat looks duller, and the painting as a whole appears flatter.

090105 Fritzie in Profile, version 2

My main problem with this painting was that I didn’t trust my own style and interpretation of the subject. Instead, in changing it, it lost its magic. To punch up the color, I would have done better to darken and enrich the colors in the dog’s coat rather than changing the background.

I decided that the overall appearance could be improved by increasing the contrast. I began by darkening the background even further, beyond its current mid-tone.

090105 Fritzie in Profile, version 3

I also increased the color in the dog, darkening the collar, eyes, nose, and interior of the ear, adding some gamboges (yellow) to areas of the coat, and introducing some of the background hues into the beard. The darker background colors seemed too intense for the gray dog, so I mottled them with sprays of water, which moderated the values and added texture.

Alterations aren’t always beneficial. Whenever I realize I’ve goofed big-time, my options are to (1) leave it as it is, cut my losses, and start over from scratch or (2) keep tweaking it to try to salvage what I can. Did the alterations I made succeed? For what I was attempting to do—return focus to the dog and increase contrast in the picture—I feel that my efforts succeeded fairly well. On the other hand, no changes I make at this point will reclaim the luminosity of the original version that I spoiled by fiddling with the background in the first place.

Just my style, Part 3

Friday, October 1st, 2010

In Part 2 we considered the role that mastery of mechanics (or skills) and the medium itself play in style.

Cayman Clusters

This time we will look at how style reflects the artist’s personal aesthetic—sense of balance, composition, structure, and use of space and color to visually interpret the subject for a viewer.  This, too, becomes an element of her style.  Yes, it can change over time as she learns and develops as an artist, and as she faces challenging personal situations that alter her outlook, either temporarily or long-term.  Even changing health conditions can cause a style to evolve, as materials may be used differently or techniques adjusted to accommodate an artist’s physical limitations.

So it’s easy to see that “style” depends on a wide variety of factors.  Although I can learn from other artists by observing and attempting to reproduce the effects they have successfully achieved, I can never develop my unique style by imitating someone else’s style.

To successfully find my own style, I need to approach a project with integrity, trusting that my natural inclinations in how to express my feelings and understandings of the subject are as valid and acceptable as any other artist’s could be.  It may not yet be as evolved, as mature as someone else’s, but it is just as valid a “style.”  By fighting my natural inclinations regarding my approach to the subject, or by mimicking a different artist’s “look,” I risk compromising my own style. Unless I remain faithful to my own style, I can produce, at best, only inferior imitations of someone else’s work; and I forfeit the style that would be unique to me.

Next week I’ll post an example of what happened one time when I second-guessed myself, disregarding my original approach, and encountered problems as a result.