Where do we go when no single effort, no single image can satisfy our curiosity about the limits of expression? One answer is to revisit the same image again and again. Each incarnation will reveal new directions. Another answer is to revisit the same image but, with different technologies, different materials and not just use a different design or palette.
We have so much at our fingertips. With so many resources, so many possibilities what should we do? As 2dimensional artists we have vast menus of materials (pigments, mediums, tools, surfaces), designs, brushstrokes, photography, digital redesign, collage, projection equipment, transfer technology (from rubber stamp to solar print) impastos or liquids, acrylic inks, etching inks, chalks, graphite, mica, powdered ores and much more. Yet, we begin with a conversation with an image, a simple design, a simple program of intention. Tools and materials redirect and modify our intentions. They always do.
What follows are a series of images sharing the same subject. They also share some of the same design elements and palettes but, the materials change, the conceptual organization of the space changes, the tools change. I begin with a painting I presented in an earlier blogpost (example 1, an oil on brushed silver anodized aluminum). The initial light area was too large to be bright. I felt an absence of contrast that weakened the effect of the dynamics of color and value. I increased those contrasts by overlaying darker and more saturated colors on the initial image and then I added more vertical texture (example 2).
example 1. step one oil on brushed silver aluminum.
In example 3 I begin with an abstraction on linen. The theme is again marsh grass, a high horizon and pools of reflected light. As I paint over example 3 with a marsh scene I use yellows, violets, small notes of red, white and two blues. I let parts of the under-image (example 3) determine the location of some of the colors . I exploit the contrast between the bright horizontal water planes (they are more reflective because they are flat) and the vertical motion of the grasses.
example 3. the abstract under-image, step one.
Example 5 continues the same marsh theme, the same high horizon, the same progression of light to dark shapes with the shapes getting progressively thinner as they ascend to the horizon. Except, in this example I construct almost all of the foreground with vertical strokes. Horizontal shapes and vertical shapes are both made with thin vertical strokes. Example 6 represents step two.
example 5. vertically dominant example; step one.
example 6. vertically dominant example; step two.
This next example maintains the theme and many of the same design components but, the materials have changed from oil paint to oil etching inks. I apply the inks in three transparent layers of yellow (first), blue (second) and violet (third). I apply the inks with a set of rubber rollers (3″ and 4″ rubber woodblock brayers). All three layers were applied to a brushed silver anodized aluminum surface (example 7). Because the etching inks (I used Charbonnel) are so stiff they are resistant to soft brush and squeegee manipulations therefore, I use stiff bristle brushes and stiff silkscreen paddles as tools to remove and re-arrange the ink (example 8). The materials and tools have changed but, the palette and subject remain the same.
example 7. step one, after rolling on the three colors.
example 8. step two, after manipulating the ink.
In this last marshland painting my revision is in response to an earlier painting which was much larger, 36×36 (example 9). I try the same image again but, smaller (18×18) and modify the original design. Rembrandt would do this. After painting a larger image he would try it again only smaller and with modifications. I begin by over-painting an existing image because I see that if I invert this image (example 10) it offers color opportunities for my subsequent squeegee deletions. Example 11 demonstrates how I have changed the design of example 9 by using more of a blue wedge shape to penetrate the straight line of the grasses. I further narrowed the horizon to create a greater sense of depth. Example 12 represents the last step in which I added smaller notes to make a more tangible and complex surface. If I were to proceed with this image I would add more atmospheric perspective. This addition requires me to wait for the painting to dry. All of these images were painted Alla Prima, or, at one sitting.
example 9. original painting 36×36.
example 10. step one; new substrate for revision 18×18.
Always amazing David. Thank you. Please keep these blogs coming.
“The true end of art is not to imitate a fixed material condition but to represent a living motion. The intelligence to be conveyed by it is not of an outer fact, but of an inner life.”
George Inness: Writings and Reflections on Art and Philosophy
Reprinted in Adrienne Baxter Bell, ed 2006
David will you be teaching class at the Art of the Carolina’s in Raleigh any time soon? Would love to sign up!
Always looking forward to watch your TV art instructions on PBS. Yours is the best program on visual arts anywhere. Thanks for your interesting blogs.
I love this! I also love the different steps – for example 7. xox