30 July 2007

flowers and crystal

painting exercise
Winsor & Newton CP 300gsm 10" x 14". 3 hours (over a few days).

i have been taking a break from the "output" part of painting to look at process and listen for hints. this is yet another copy, unfinished, from a painting tutorial by susanna spann.

susanna is in the "crystal and light" school of watercolor painters: the concept from photographic reference, a composition based on the tesselated alternation of crisp edges, subtle transitions and a broad value range (strong lighting), and an execution that requires multiple glazes of diluted paint, one on top of the other, to build up those transitions and value contrasts.

this watercolor technique can produce spectacular results. jenny davis (linked under "influences") uses it in her portrait painting -- the same crisp edges and subtle transitions, but now the flower is the young face and the crystal is her flowing hair. jenny says a single portrait may take her a month to complete, incrementally each day; and her work glows with mastery.

but i'm just an old dog. i freehanded the example outline in pencil, then splattered away at it, going through the movements of the technique to see how it feels. then i did the audit. i am attracted to the style for the control of value contrasts and color transitions, but the repeated glazing is narcotic. i tend to fall back thoughtlessly on paint that is too diluted, and compensate for that with an excessive number of glazes. this makes painting carefully along the edges, over and over, a real chore. and i miss the intricate pigment textures that get lost in repeated glazing -- the painting and a giclée print of the painting look pretty much the same.

the poetry in flowers and crystal, if poetry is the word for it, seems to me formal and even surreal. i love john marin, his ability to invent visual symbols on the fly, the "unerring accuracy of hand and eye" in john sargent. i like paintings that look triumphant more than paintings that look achieved.

1 comment:

W. K. Moore said...

Nice delicate work Bruce. You certainly got the transparency to a point of heightened artistic interest.. I also like the effect of the angle on the back edge of the table.