Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Not Sure What To Do? Stop and Ask a Master

     It happened to me just this week.  I’m two and a half days into my painting, and I find myself lost.  Not lost like I don’t have a clue where I’m going.  I knew what I wanted to accomplish.  I just didn’t know how to get there.
     For me, it’s usually a random pattern like cedar trees on a hillside, or rocks with dirt in a pen.  Repetitive textures kick my butt, but you know what?  They can make your painting.  So we must find a way to deal with them when they show up at our artistic crossroads.

Holding The High Ground
     I have found when these little glitches arrive, it’s better to stop everything and approach the issue with a bit of logic.  Here’s what I do.. Ask a Master!  I take a mental break and hit the books.  By studying a Master I can find out how someone with more artistic knowledge than myself has resolved a similar issue.
     Maybe it’s as easy as simplifying the drawing; maybe all those blades of grass really need to be one large wash with a small amount of foreground texture.  The point is, it requires discipline to stop and assess the situation.  I can’t tell you how many paintings I have ruined because of a snap decision.  All I had to do was slow down and take a few minutes to research possible solutions.
     Interestingly enough, this isn’t one of my strengths.  I typically find myself researching how to fix a situation, instead of researching how best to handle it from the beginning.  It’s far easier to do it right than try to save a mistake that’s starting to decline.
     Much of this is due to Watercolor and its nature.  We think it’s a loose and splashy medium that requires a haphazard application to look, well …… “watercolor-y”.  What I’ve learned is those artists who make their paintings look loose and splashy, paint them with deadly accuracy to look that way.

     Richard Schmid sums this up nicely in his book, “Alla Prima”.  About CONTROL, he says, “However you choose to paint, get it accurate in every necessary respect.  That does not mean “tight” or detailed. You can work in a splendidly loose and simple way and still be exact.  Looseness is not a frivolous departure from control, quite the opposite.  It arises from the freedom, which comes with superb control.  Therefore, looseness should describe how a painting looks, not how it is done.”  
     Also, don’t discount yourself as a Master.  Numerous times, I’ve found that by looking at my own successes from previous paintings, I had resolved this same dilemma with no problems.  You might have the answer to your own problem.  It sounds weird, but we all hit artistic walls that stop us one day and are not even an afterthought the next.
     Remember this:  painting is just a process of refining and reworking until everything on your paper is the right color and in the right place.  It is so easy!

All content and image of "Holding The High Ground" © Mark Kohler Studio.  

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