Monday, October 12, 2015

Getting rid of junk

The last few days I've been getting high. Not what you're drugs or Plymouth gin or anything like that. I rented one of those big dumpster thingies and started pitching out stuff.

It's liberating. The activity produces great neuro-chemicals, I can tell you. If enough of it builds up in my system I may even have the energy to clean the new empty space where all that junk once was! It seems some of that stuff, like me, put on weight over the past 20 years.
 Anyway it got me thinking about the same thing in painting. It IS liberating to leave out useless stuff. Though a lot of time this doesn't mean actually eliminating something so much as letting it melt into its surrounding zone of value. Especially the farther back in space it is. Nothing flattens space like having everything in the scene rendered to the same degree of finish. Sometimes I get that right. This oil pastel sacrifices a lot of foliage detail (especially on the far bank) to emphasize the day's color and the nice shapes.

This watercolor suggests everything and defines almost nothing - but I think one can identify what's what and both images convey their weather and light.

When I first started out, it was hard to shake the notion that "if it's there I should paint every bit of it...and leave it where it is". I knew good paintings when I saw them...but assumed REALLY GOOD artists just lucked into better composed, more paintable scenery than me. I drove around a LOT looking for the ideal vista. Fortunately gas was 93 cents a gallon back then.
 Now I'm getting excited about simplified compositions that let value or color or shape do the talking. As our culture becomes more photo-centric, perhaps painting should become more "painterly"...its own kind of thing. Maybe not to the point of total abstraction necessarily...just indicative of human perception, as opposed to device capture.


  1. I like to think that paintings are synonymous with horror films. The best horror films are the ones that leave the "bad guy" up to the imagination, or they show just enough for you to get an idea and then you have to fill in the blanks. Same with a good painting. I think the photo-realism craze is just creating laziness. Viewers no longer have to think about what they're looking at or use their own imagination to fill in any blanks.

  2. Great insight. That's why I liked the original "The Thing. Just glimpses of the creature until the end.

  3. So do you also teach watercolor workshops? If so - I'm in! I love the shadows dancing into the background in the vineyard, and the atmospheric, misty feel of the water.

  4. Yes, we have a weekly class in Fairfield and I've done some out of town workshops too. I pretty much emphasize the same technical things Iain Stewart, Joseph Zbukvic and Alvaro Castagnet do (using the bead, paper at a steep angle, loaded brush, etc.). Beyond that I emphasize the same seeing, color and composition issues that came out with oils and pastels.