Just finishing this piece; towards the end of the process there is always the problem of letting go; calling it finished. The painting is such a pleasure at this point; the problems and drawing and decisions are behind me, and the elaboration of elements…. the focusing and adjusting could go on endlessy. The tipping point, of course, is to find that place where a balance exists between the presence of the representation…the credibility of the light and the space and the surfaces…… and the emphatic presence of the patches of paint which constitute the actuality of the object; the painting.
In this piece, as well as the previous studio piece “Zion Wall”, I’ve preserved the grid I use to draw the image from the photo source, and also augmented it with color, as a simple means of building a tension between the surface and the illusory space of the sea. The grid is hit and miss, and has been augmented with contrating color. It’s an extremely simple device, but for me makes a delightful and elusive interplay with the surface. It floats in and out of my attention, and seems to dance around a bit.
The paint handling has been emphatically influenced by my onsite work, where the need to work very quickly is very pressing. There’s a real progression from “Zion Wall”, done in early March , to this one in terms of the energy and scale of the marks.
When I began this I intended to also be continung on an ongoing sequence of onsite pieces, done from the local fields. But for years I’ve had the habit of one piece at a time…I need to focus on a single piece and bring it to conclusion before beginning the next. I look forward now to continuing the onsite Ruskin landscapes; it’s always refreshing to switch the scale and the process. Years ago, from the 70’s to the 90’s, I alternated between easel pieces in the studio and watercolors; they were so contrary in process and handling. The studio oils always begin with a 3″ brush and quick washes, as the means of getting the whole image established as quickly as possible…and then I’d spend weeks cranking the whole thing into focus, going to smaller and smaller brushes….working ‘inductively’…from the whole to the parts. In the watercolors I’d begin with a twig or a stone or a leaf, and slowly build the piece from a myriad of tiny parts….’deductively’…from the part to the whole. Here’s an image of a watercolor from 20 years ago….all the light parts made by painting the negative spaces…the darker surrounding stuff. The practice of painting negative spaces has been hugely important to my painting in general; if forces me to look at the shapes, and by painting the shapes around a leaf I always make a far more interesting leaf than if I paint it directly. I’ve found that this process has transferred wholly to my painting with oil; if I’m painting a dark I’m tracking the surrounding light shapes, and if I’m painting a lighter area, I’m tracking th dark shape. This may seem obvious and elementary, but I know it is hugely important to the nature of the images I make. I need the darks and lights to fit like a jigsaw puzzle…the image never resolves into dark things on a light field or vice versa….I hope.
This post became longer than expected…and is mostly shop talk. In future posts I hope to address some questions about my motives and objectives in making the painting. What the hell is the point of these things? I do think that writing about the work and the ideas may be very useful for the progress of my work. I always have been able to hold the blindly optimistic view thet my best stuff lies ahead.
I welcome any and all comments or questions.