Thursday, July 23, 2009

Some things you will not see in nature.


Here is a new painting. I am never terribly happy with my photography so pretend its about 10% better than it looks, OK? I want to take a break from presenting various design stems, but I will return to that.

I varnished myself today. I wanted to finish this picture and it was grey out but not raining, so I st my easel up out doors so I would have good light and some insects. I shot a coat of varnish on the painting to bring back the darks which had sunk in. I worked for a while but the mosquito's starred to bite me so.............. I reached down without looking and instead of my Deepwoods Off, I grabbed the damar varnish and sprayed it onto my arms and the back of my neck, and a little onto my hat just to be sure. You would think would have smelled the difference before I had done all of that, but I didn't. I figured out what I had done and used Goop to get most of it off. I am still a little sticky here and there. And now my hat is glossy.

Let me throw out an idea or two for you today. The first is "reformatting"paintings. Here is the painting above as it came in from outside.

The painting was 16 x 22. I actually paint that size. It is useful when 16 X 20 seems too square. When I pulled this out to finish it in the studio it seemed to sprawl too much and I felt that if I cropped it more tightly it would be more about the lupines. So I took it off its stretchers and put it on to a set of 16 X 20's. I took a little off the left side but mostly I cropped on the right. I think it helped. Then I worked up the lupines and the leaves that surround them. I put a lot of texture through out all of the grass and the other botanicals in the foreground.

I redefined the distant shore and pushed a lot of reds into that. I also punched up that bright reflection in the water. It looks crisper back there now. I think the painting needed a lot more punch. It had an all over kind of lethargy.

I painted the lupine mostly by loading the side of my leaf shaped palette knife with cobalt violet and other similar mixtures of colors then with vertical strokes I formed the lupines. I don't do a lot with a knife, but over the years of painting lupines annually I have decided that is the best way to do them. My experience is that about most paintings I do outside are about 2/3s done and I add the last third in the studio. I don't add information, I already have enough of that, sometimes too much. I try to add art.

I was on face book today and a very fine painter posted something about the importance of representing the underlying geometry in an object. Another artist logged on an suggested that by copying the shapes and colors carefully the painting would "build itself" I have many times in this blog pushed the idea of thinking a painting into existence rather than trying to observe it onto the canvas. Here is a list of what you will not see in nature.

  • design, nature is random, design is imposed on nature and not observed there.
  • brushwork, there is no brushwork in nature, whether you want brushwork like Sargent or like Constable you have to invent it. it will not be visible before you.
  • artistic color, nature has color, but if you want color that is arranged rather than observed, if you want to control your color, you have to make decisions to do something other than what you see.
  • simplicity, nature is usually insanely complicated and detailed. Most of that detail out there is extraneous and gets in the way of presenting the large idea.
  • You, when you paint you want to paint in a way that is yours, but that's not out there either, you must bring the you with you!
  • style, nature is styless, style is a human construct, it won't be found in observation, it is the product of decision making.

20 comments:

Gregory Becker said...

Good post, I agree with most of what you said except for your first point in the list of things that you wont see in nature.
I disagree about not seeing design in nature. To me nature follows necessity and that alone is design. To impose design on nature is really an agreement between the viewer and what nature is presenting. I believe that nature already has every possible design available but, that is not true of viewers of nature. The viewer is limited in the amount of design that they can see and find pleasing therefore one viewer may see something beautiful in a scene that another viewer may not. We have limitations but nature does not. A limited view of design may make nature appear chaotic or random since nature has all of design present.
Each artist, in my opinion, must extract from all of the complexity of natural design and simplify to present what they find beautiful. This is why 1000 painters can paint the same scene and all of them see something different.
That's not to say that there isn't alot to agree on. The golden mean is very agreeable.
I believe that when we design we are saying to the complexity before us that we agree. We agree with design and with nature and open a dialogue of beauty not just with nature and ourselves but also with others others, and that is the most beautiful design of all.

Deb said...

Seems to me that Gregory and Stapleton are saying the same thing.
Certainly, nature has design, but I think that what Stape meant by not finding design in nature is that a particular small microcosmic view - one panorama, one field, etc. doesn't necessarily exhibit the design characteristics necessary to create a good painting, without some editing going on by the painter. Move a tree here, eliminate a shrub there, etc. etc.
Gregory said artists must "extract from the complexity of natural design and simplify to present what they find beautiful". I think that is exactly what Stape is saying when he means we must "think a painting into existence rather than observe it".

And Stape, now that you are varnished ,does this mean you're archival?

Talk about the golden mean. I've heard the term many times, and THINK I know the concept, but would like to hear a clear definition.

I like the painting very much -wow! It looks just like a photograph!
(JUST KIDDING!!)

"OVALAUDG" What happens to an already hefty Boston resident who moves south and eats all that fried food.

Todd Bonita said...

Can you reccomend a varnish with deet in it.

Deborah Chapin said...

I agree with the style point, but the rest I would beg to differ.

I think Stape, that you are an intellectual painter. I like to paint using my head too but I like to do it before I begin painting so that I can respond to my environment. Lots of trial an error have allowed me to learn an intuitive positive negative response to things which occur while I'm painting.

When I paint I do find the design within nature 1st, look for the color combinations that I want to work with, pick the time of day which is most likely going to cause the lighting effects which I wish to use, and in seascapes I like to remain faithful to the natural movement of the waves, otherwise why not just paint back in the studio and make it up. I see so many unnatural looking water movements and wave paintings by those who "think" they know what the water is doing.

My objectives in painting are not "just" to create a beautiful painting but to "capture the moment" in which I am painting which requires a certain amount of faithfulness to the subject. It is also going to create works which are hard to replicate BECAUSE you can't go back an paint a particular combination of things which doesn't happen every night or every year or even every lifetime. To me capturing rare moments is what it is all about. Finding the universal within the rare moments is another level.

Each artist can have their bag of tricks and have their approach to painting but what is or is not in the bag depends on the objectives.

I don't want to be able to replicate my works, I want to create originals in as many different ways as possible.

DennyHollandStudio said...

I often use a generous coating of Liquin when I paint outdoors, it's a good alternative to sunscreen for us sensitive skin types...

mariandioguardi.com said...

Hi All,
Gregory says:"I believe that nature already has every possible design available but, that is not true of viewers of nature."

This is not very different than the way I understand Stapleton's take on nature. With nature having every possible designit often appears chaotic and overly complex.

Try looking at it this way: Nature (the toy chest) has every shape and size of "building" blocks. The blocks we choose, the blocks we don't choose are all in response to what is observable and what we want people to see.Those buliding blocks become our structure all from nature. After structure there is design (refinement of structure) and decoration. It is good that we as artists have limits. That is what makes a painting our personal vision that we choose share with the viewer. Faithfulness to a subject isn't only "reality" and can be very effective when it's just believable.

I believe the studio painting of the lupines more because I can feel what Stapleton saw and found beautiful. The field painting, well, it looked just like what it was, grey and local.

I've studied years with a strict observational painter of some note so I can tell you that Stapleton's approach has merit and his paintings are a strong argument for design when compared to something strictly observed.

Mary Byrom said...

Stapleton, From your posts on Waugh, Metcalf & Hibbard...I notice a different design structure or the same ones as you sketch and additional "supporting designs"... to the lines you are drawing. I notice if a design sketch is presented in B&W (Edgar Payne's book)- I can often agree with his structure choice. If it's in color I often see something else going on. It is not unusual for it to appear as 2 or 3 different design structures. Also with the very complex designs of some large masterpieces I see designs within designs - (major designs for the whole piece and sub-supporting designs in certain sections..are you following me?) It seems that the most successful paintings are the result of 80% thinking and 20% moving your brush...or is it 90/10? Your thoughts please.
And thanks for all your hard work on this blog.

Jeremy Elder said...

How do you see design effecting figure drawing? A big part of design is simplification, but you also mention actually moving things about into a more pleasing arrangement. You can't do this with a nose or eye. How do they same principles apply?

Gregory Becker said...

I really do find all of the comments agreeable.
I have been studying art for about 4 or 5 years now as something quiet to do while my newborn daughter slept.
I fell in love with drawing at first and now I am at a point where I want to transition to colored work.
I don't really know that much about art except in generalities, but I do know some things, and the thing I know with perfect certainty is this...
I know when I experience something that I would like to share with someone else, it's usually a deeper emotion.
If I am trying to incorporate too much in terms of design than the initial reason for painting, I fear, will cause that emotion to slip away from me and that's the part I wanted to share in the first place.
My emotions choose my subject. There is already a design in my emotions that points toward beauty.
If I try to overwrite that I lose interest.
So, how do you design while keeping the original emotional intent? I honestly don't know.
I do, however, sense a danger that I am unable to articulate.
I like the toybox analogy.
BTW, that varnish incident is so funny. I told my my wife and she laughed uncontrolably.

Gregory Becker said...

Jeremy, now that is an interesting point.

Gregory Becker said...

I just want to say one more thing.
I just looked at my own work and asked myself a question...
Do I insist on anything as it relates to design?
I do.
I insist on composing the lighting situation. That is a playground for me. That is when I play with nature.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Gregory.
Gee, A lot of comments tonight. I guess I will give this subject another night.I will address your comment in the post itself rather than writing everything twice.
..................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Deb;
again I will comment in tonights post,
I do mean you must think the painting into existence,
...................Stape

ovalaudg= decoupage done with offal

Stapleton Kearns said...

Todd,
I might suggest Skin- so- soft a product that is frequently recommended to me by people who have no idea what it is like to paint outside in Maine black fly season.I believe it is as good as damar anyday, at least for mosquitoes.
........................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Deb'
I will post tonight more about design.
...............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Denny:
That liquin is great in a martini too.
..........Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Marian,
I like that toy chest analogy.
...............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Mary:
I will go after that in tonights post also, Thanks for the compliment it is an awful lot of work, buy I don't intend to do it for ever. This is a finite project.
................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Jeremy;
good question, see tonights post, I have a good answer.
.............Stape

willek said...

This is too heated for me and people are speaking with too much authority and wisdom. This makes me very uncomfortable. I just want everyone to be happy. WillEK

logicat= a woozy Feline.