Archive for September, 2013

A Matter of Perspective

Sunday, September 15th, 2013

What draws me to a given subject? It varies. Sometimes it’s an iconic scene, as with “Brugge Bridge,” which I wrote about last time. Other times I’m attracted by interesting lighting effects or an intriguing abstract quality of a design, as in “Spiral Stair” (shown below), viewed over the bannister of a narrow, multiple flight staircase in the B&B where we stayed in Brugge. Sometimes it’s recognizing an easily overlooked point of beauty within the shadow of a more iconic scene that draws my attention.

130702 Spiral Stair

One of my traveling companions recently said, “Your paintings always make things look so much better than they do in real life.”

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then as an artist, I have the opportunity and privilege to show to others certain beauties that my eye recognizes. If I paint only the beauties that others already recognize, my hackneyed “insights” can be of little worth. The less recognizable those points are to others, the more valuable my artistic comments become.

So I try to keep a fresh outlook. Yes, there is certain nostalgic, historic, or commercial value in recording recognizable, often-painted icons. But artistically, I find it more satisfying to depict familiar subjects from an unfamiliar perspective. It’s all a matter of how you look at it. But more importantly, it’s largely a matter of how I, as an artist, can get other people to look at it.

What do you think? As a viewer, what attracts you to a painting? Is it the subject itself, or the artist’s treatment of it? Is it color, or design, patterns of light and dark? Or is it something else entirely? I’d love to hear your comments.

A Transitional Period: It’s Not a Little Thing

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

After having created an abbreviated series of postcard-sized travel paintings, returning to larger-format work when I got back to the studio proved something of a psychological challenge. The quick sketches I’d gotten into the habit of making tended to be just that—quick, minimalistic, and intuitive. Any larger work suddenly seemed intimidating, requiring more careful preparation and more extensive consideration and planning.

I considered switching from watercolor to acrylics, thinking that perhaps the change of approach required by a different medium would help me make the transition. But deep down, I knew that what I really needed to do was to simply do it.

I grabbed a quarter-sheet sized watercolor block, a couple of large brushes, and riffled through a stack of photographs to find several potential subjects. From those I chose an iconic one from Brugge, Belgium, which had been the first stop on our itinerary. Brugge had proved a lovely location to recover from jetlag. Perhaps it would help me make this transition as well.

130701 Brugge Bridge

With a sketch of the scene on the paper, a color harmony in my head, and a brush in my hand, I found the subject leading me into the work. It took me several days to complete.

But, wonder of wonders, I was suddenly back in business!

Although I continue to do quick watercolor sketches on many of my morning excursions, I also spend studio time painting from my new stock of photos, with the intention of developing small series around specific themes. It’s a project that could keep me busy for months…if I can maintain momentum. If I can’t, I may still reconsider that more drastic transition from watercolor to acrylics, to approach it with a fresh mindset and to force a new approach.

What would you like to see? More watercolor? Or a change to acrylics? I’d love to hear from you.