Overlapping is a large tool. Overlapping colors hold down other colors. They become steps, little and big, into and out of space.
One day I will give up talking and writing, no other form of communication except for painting.
Most things can not be separated. This includes color, form and composition.
Observe nature well and at the same time push the colors and shapes to emphasize what you loved about the thing you are painting. Push the abstraction to the point where you will lose something of the naturalness but will gain control over every part and where it will then be possible to adjust things further. Leave out the details altogether for awhile. The danger of details are that they can be use to tie everything together and to finish the painting too quickly. In the beginning try to limit the number of shapes you are working with. At this stage you are making an abstract painting using the elements in front of you. The idea is to go towards a stronger abstraction without going away from reality. The more exciting the abstraction the more exciting the painting and it then follows that the whole will be closer to the excitement of reality. The important part is translating the painting into a pure painting language, into an abstraction, strengthening that abstraction, without losing touch with the observable world.
Strengthen your sense of the abstraction to be better equipped not to be overwhelmed by the motif.
When painting abstractly try to come across forms and colors as naturally as possible, as if you were discovering them by walking through a landscape looking for a motif to paint. Except by the time you find something you would like to paint you have already painted it, and having done these abstract paintings more likely to find these things in the landscape.
Get outside soon and do some real, perceptual painting if that really exists or maybe more precisely some abstract painting from life
Consider everything equally then use them unequally. Make background details strong, distinct, shapes, then tie or cluster parts to form the larger interest or subject and to take its staring role without diminishing the other parts but letting them support without giving up their character or identity. Bring up the shapes in the background and then deal with them. In abstract work the subject is the abstraction itself. In working instead of focusing on the subject and less on the background stress the background. This will be the strong support for the main subject and will supply parts that when clustered becomes the main subject.
Remember everything in the arena of the work plays a part. Unlike a play the lights can not be adjusted from moment to moment. Everything is in focus and controlled. Everything can be viewed at once but the artist can guide the viewer by emphasis, relating and by making steps that direct the eye this way and that.
Every part needs to be abstracted in order for it to be adjustable. Everything strong and then placed under control. Try something other than muting. While speaking you would not say clearly what you want to say and mumble the rest. Remove in the work what is not important. I do not know if I could have figured out yesterday what is clear today. What I do today is different than what I would have done yesterday. In this way slowness has a large impact. Slow looking, working quickly, day after day.
In an abstract work there is a better chance that each color shape is given full consideration. Some of these will combine to make larger, more dominant, complex shapes. This shape will likely contain a portion of the subject of the work. In a figurative work an abstract shape may be taken in by the eye before the subject is recognized. It might be an important part of the subject but likely not the entire subject. The subject cannot be separated entirely from the whole. This abstract shape must be interesting in itself. One problem, and a big one, in a figurative work could be that a prominent shape is not interesting abstractly. For example a prominent dark shape might make up a part of the model’s clothing and start the journey to explore the other forms that make up the model with all this anchored within the shapes that make up the space around the model. The dominant abstract shape will start the journey that will explore the rest of the painting.
Take a painting done from life and do a collage after it. While doing this make several quick drawings of the painting. Let these be like quick notes. A few lines, just enough where if you were drawing from several different paintings you would be able to tell which drawing is of which painting but no more than that; so only what is necessary to identify which painting it was of. Starting with the blank canvas you start with one shape with four edges. The first mark transforms this shape and makes things more complex. In collage you are actually cutting the forms that make up the edges of the work and therefore you are more likely to be aware of them and their importance.
Attraction to a subject needs to be of the entire space that holds the subject, not just the subject. It cannot be one object. Just as one must treat the painting as a whole one needs to be attracted to the whole. Make sure there is a painting there. The relationships together will determine the skin of the work, its overall color/light/atmosphere. The artist may not be aware of this until afterwards and when seeing the work again after some time has passed and viewing it in a different environment and in a different light. It is very hard for the artist to judge the work with a wet brush in the hand and a remembrance of all the stages the work has gone through. The painting must be seen away from where it was made. The teacher coming upon the students work still before the motif can only wonder how the student saw what he painted. Away from the motif the artist should never defend the painting by saying that was the way it was. If it was and is not working then it had to be reinvented.
Instead of presenting a still life in a gentle way; front of table, edge, flat plane with objects, and wall, throw the viewer into the objects. Instead of being frozen to one spot try moving around your subject little a sculptor would. This is different to what the Renaissance did with perspective where the line of perspective put the viewer in a stationary spot. The objects disappear into space instead of coming forward. Braque said it better – “The viewer can back away or come forward as with real objects.”
Move around in the painting while you move from one color/value to another on the palette.
Pick three spots where a plane of color moves through the painting. Take for example a wall behind and between objects on a table. Let us say that the wall turns. Pick out one spot on the wall and compare it to another spot on the same wall, same plane and then another spot on the wall that has turned. The former spots will likely be in a closer range and where the wall has turned will be more of a jump in value. This will depend greatly on the lighting. If the painting demands it you will need to adjust the lights or invent what is necessary to create the turn. Likewise if painting a house or any cube shape, the light needs to strike one side more than the other or you will not have the allusion of going around the corner but instead the form with be flattened out unless other means are applied.
The one brush method enables you to do the constant adjusting as opposed to making up a new color each time.
You can not make something out of nothing and you can not just go out and copy the landscape. Perception and invention must work together. On the radio the other day I heard Stephen Sondheim talking about his lyrics and was surprised that he uses a rhyming dictionary, but then it makes sense, like the artist who has things before him to pick and choose from and then to construct his invention.
Nuance is what happens while working on the large things in the painting.
Do not fall in love with parts. They amount to little on their own. It is only how they make up the whole.
Painting is like I am locked out and I am trying every door, looking through windows, trying to find a way in.
You can try as hard as you want, trouble is, what you are trying to do has little to do with what you will do. But if you fail you will possibly get something far more surprising, something you just invented.
Look at as much great art as you can. Still better find an artist whose work speaks to you and spend a long time looking. This may happen with different artist at different times.
Look at paintings that give permission to go where you were cautious.
There are many abstract painters who claim that their work is derived from life and many figurative painters who claim to be abstract. Of course they are both right.
To sit among the frescoes of Lorenzetti in the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena and paint abstractly is not a contradiction.
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