I love how the visual ideas one entertains in the course of being an artist may lay dormant for a time, and then return as a nice surprise. 🙂
Last Wednesday night, with a head full of visual ideas, I entered the studio and started trying to get those ideas out on canvas. This is the first of 3 paintings I did in less than 24 hours. While this is not exactly what I envisioned I would be creating, so far, I’m very happy with the direction.
Painting abstractly, or non-objectively, is a much more intuitive process for me than the planned paintings from life. I start with some loose ideas for shapes, colors, and composition, begin adding some patches of paint, and then follow the brushes to see where they lead. In this case, they led back to some similar imagery I was exploring 2 years ago (see “Alien Kitchen” and “Twenty-Sixth Day Plus 100″ from the Hot Hot Summer series of Works on Paper).
I don’t think these paintings would have taken shape the way they did were it not also for my 2-month excursion back into representational paintings. I learned a lot from seriously concentrating on making brushstrokes (and I still have a lot left to learn), but I was champing at the bit to get back to abstraction. In just over 4 days, I’ve now created seven new small abstract paintings and started a couple of others. I’ll be posting one a day unless something (like work, illness or social life) causes me to take a break.
I intend to continue painting my new abstracts alla prima, or “all at once,” as I did with most of my recent still life paintings. What this means is the painting is started and finished in one painting session, while the paint is still wet. It lends a freshness to the work, in that my visual ideas of that day are transmitted to the painting in that session, but more importantly—at least when working in oil—the paints and paint strokes flow very well into, over, around, and through all the other paint strokes on the canvas. The other main option is to work in layers (“indirect painting”), where new paint is laid down over dry paint from a previous session, rather than becoming physically integrated with the earlier applications of paint. Plenty of artists work by painting in layers, and it’s an equally valid way of working, but alla prima is my preference.
I did this painting a few weeks ago, right after my first white rabbit painting, “The Woobie Contemplates Revenge.” From a strictly artistic point of view, I was interested in continuing painting white on white and seeing what I could do with that. I particularly like how fuzzy his fuzzy legs appear in the final work. There’s more to this painting than just that, though. I hope you can appreciate it. We live in interesting times…
Painting white things is really fun and challenging. For this painting, I placed a white rabbit stuffed animal in a white box and lit it from two sides: one a warm light, which casts a cool shadow, and one a cool light, which casts a warm shadow. So in this white on white painting, the colors come mostly from the shadows cast by the lights.
I enjoyed this challenge so much, that I’m planning more work featuring “The Woobie,” as well as more white on white paintings. Luckily, the Woobie has a little family, so they could keep me busy for a while.
Until my painting of Marvin the Martian a few days ago, I went nearly two weeks without painting (argh!) — quite an interruption in this almost daily schedule I’m trying to keep to.
We went to Oregon for a week, which was wonderful! We went for my brother’s wedding and then traveled around just a bit down the coast: walked for hours on beaches in Cannon Beach and Newport, and from the balcony of our hotel room in Newport, we watched whales surfacing off in the distance under a sunset. We saw a lot of art in Eugene and Portland and ate too much pretty good food.
It was also the first time we took an airplane in 6 years. We are trying to reduce our carbon footprint, and so have been traveling by train since 2005, but as much as we prefer train travel, it just didn’t make sense for this trip. The plane trips were not as bad as I feared; no crashes, no trouble with the TSA, no lost luggage, and only one really late flight (storms in Denver), though we did have to forfeit a bottle of water and a Leatherman. The clouds were awesome, which I really enjoyed (I take lots of photos of clouds from planes whenever I do fly).
I also came down with the worst case of allergies I’ve ever had, which I’m finally almost over after two weeks.
Plus, I got an illustration gig while I was vacationing that required me to spend two 14-hour days upon our return drawing illustrations for a book publishing company in London (and two days in recovery from staying up late drawing with a mouse!).
So, I’m feeling the interruption, but trying to get back into the swing of things. For this painting, I decided to paint something soft. This is a small stuffed Bugs Bunny toy. I used only 4 colors in this painting: white, cadmium red, thalo turquoise, and—just for the eyes—black. I attempted to use very few, yet descriptive, brushstrokes; standing as far away from the easel as possible while still allowing my hand and brush to reach the canvas. I think I succeeded in not overworking it, but did I underwork it? I’m not totally sure.
I love Marvin the Martian. He’s probably my favorite cartoon character of all time (though Bugs Bunny is a very close contender, and some new 3D characters, such as Rango, are quite fabulous as well). However, Marvin’s been with me since I was a kid. I’ve drawn him, made a 3D model of him, made a tiny and very short animated 3D film of him with a spaceship of his (that I also designed and modeled), I’ve dressed as Marvin for Halloween, and now I’ve finally painted him.
I was hoping that if I painted a slightly larger object than the little 1.25″ – 1.5″ characters I painted before our vacation, it would help me loosen up some. Maybe it did, a little; maybe not as much as I’d like. I think I need to paint soft things next. But I am very happy with how Marvin came out. He does look almost exactly like the little plastic toy I used as a model.
Marvin is painted on a 1.25″ deep gallery-wrapped canvas, and this time, I’ve painted the sides the same blue as the negative space (or background).
This is the third and final little rubber robot toy; this one is kind of a speed racer. He was both hard and fun to paint. He’s very small and yet full of so much detail, but the detail is so tiny, it’s hard to discern. His little face is actually not very detailed and kind of strange-looking. Each of these little guys is in fact a slightly different color; one is more bright green, one more army green, and this one is in-between bright and army green.
I aimed again for looseness with these last two paintings; it continues to be a struggle to overcome 20 years of painting habits, but I’m not unhappy with these.
This is the second of three little rubber robot toys that have accompanied me on my desktop computers for at least the past 15 years. (Don’t tell the other two, but this guy is my favorite of the three). His posture kind of reminds me of Kevin Kline’s character in “Dave,” hence the title.