Saturday, February 20, 2010

A large bird visits the blog

I encountered this fellow today. I stopped for coffee on my way to a painting site and there he was! He was friendly and mild mannered, the lady who owned the car eventually picked him up, gently set him on the ground and he padded off. Nice bird.

I worked today on a painting that I started the day before. It was an 18 by 24, a size I usually try to paint in one shot. I then finish them in the studio. You have seen me do that on this blog . But today the painting wasn't better at the end of the day than it was at the beginning. That happens sometimes, and I always feel so beaten when it does. Not discouraged, just disappointed that I had lost my focus and made the painting truer to nature but more disjointed. I had lots of information, but the painting no longer worked as a unit.I will now attempt to steal a victory from the jaws of defeat by writing some about "pushing' paintings beyond the rough impression and my thoughts on finish versus looseness.

I will print out a photo of the scene and work on it in the studio, probably I will be able to save it. I don't need to go out and work on it again, as I have more than enough information, I need to get the"art" part installed in the painting. Some painters I know are only interested in making one shot loose paintings. There is nothing wrong with that, but I like to take paintings a little further. We often hear people say that it takes two artists to make a painting " one to paint it and another to stop them before they ruin it". I disagree.

You can continue to work on a painting as long as you can continue to make good decisions about what to do to it.

It is this ability that enables me to make a living. I can get more finish in a painting and still keep it looking like an impressionist piece.

Lots of the French and American 19th century painters did this. The museums are filled with examples. I think no era has been as enamored with one shot sketches as our own. Some painters develop the ability to knock out a painting very quickly that seems to me a little half baked. There are, of course, wonderful one shot paintings that are full of life and excitement, but for every one of those, there are a thousand lazily executed and poorly thought through paintings.
I will begin tomorrow a series of several posts on finish .


Deborah Paris said...

Love the bird (but not as much as the kitten),
And I SO agree with you on this-

Tom said...

Hi Stape
I find that one of the hardest things, sustaining the initial idea of the work, or maybe a better why to say it is developing the initial idea into a finish or complete statement. It really takes some organizing skills to relate all the various parts of something. A big over riding idea helps a lot, like the ones you presented in the pervious posts. Imagine designing a fighter jet. But nature is a designer so we must be too. It is so easy to forget what one is trying to say in front of nature. Bonnard said he would go look at his subject and then he would go to another room to work on his painting. I think he referred to the "motif" as tyrannical.

Teresa Lynn said...

Thanks for this post. I also agree totally with you and sometimes feel like the lone wolf for wanting to push my paintings a bit further. Yes I am still learning and I probably push too much most of the time, but I am trying to learn a balance and I enjoy your work because I see you strike a wonderful balance in your paintings. said...

"It is so easy to forget what one is trying to say in front of nature."
Tom, this is so simply and well said as far as summing up my problem with facing nature and comparing it to what I can paint. I do get over whelmed.

Stapleton is a painter who can just paint a piece of work right the essential and then take it beyond. Stape, throw your first painting away then get back out there and do that scene again!

But I agree about finishing a piece after the scene has been removed. I do that with still life (believe it or not)because the after image the memory of the set up remaining in my mind's eye is stronger to me than the tyranny of reality. I paint what's real to me.

Barbara A. Busenbark said...

I'm so glad you've spoken about not having to finish the painting on site. I have always felt so rushed trying to follow that idea. The result is not very good.

Also - I like the kitten better too!

R Yvonne Colclasure said...

Thanks Stape. I am glad you will show us the process of "pushing". I am so intimidated by the get it in the first pass that I usually "pitch em" in the trash if I don't. I am just barely beyond a beginner and sometimes wonder if I will ever become the painter I want to be, so thank you for honestly sharing the process with us. So many artists would just show us the "finished" product and never the not-so-finished ones. You rock.

Billy Guffey said...

Hey Stape. Do you ever go back to older paintings that didn't work the first time out? Totally dry paintings? If so, how do you "oil out"? I know some artists oil out certain areas they will work on, while others the whole painting. There are also a variety of mixtures artists use to do this. Can you give us your thoughts on this matter? Thanks.

Philip Koch said...

Heck, the best I ever got was a seagull standing on top of my easel.

Stape wrote "... made the painting truer to nature but more disjointed." Boy that sums up the great challenge we face in working from direct observation. Well said.

This is exactly the problem that often leads me to work in oil from charcoal drawings I do out on location. The black and white drawings buffer me from being completely taken over by the "authority" of what is actually out there in nature.

To the plein air painter standing there holding a little paintbrush by their flimsy easel, it can seem presumptuous or foolish to alter or eliminate what's actually before you in nature. It can seem so big and so permanent you start doubting yourself.

Robert J. Simone said...

Dare I say that to some extent the "plein air" movement with it's proliferation of "paintouts" does a disservice to landscape painting in America. The public is exposed to a lot of substandard work and let to believe it is art. There are those who are excellent "one shot" painters, but not that many. There are also purist who consider it anathema to rework a painting in the studio or on site. I think real growth comes from working both outside and inside. With and without the subject present.

Tim Fitzgerald said...

Thanks, knowing that after all these years you get disappointed occasionally is a great help to the rest of us struggling along thinking we suck. (pardon the French). Your just amazing.Tim Fitz

Mary Byrom said...

I got into this habit of sketching the design and specifics on location in gray scale values or pen and ink. I do 1-3 versions, sometimes more. I pick the version I like and stick to that. This helps me not "get lost in nature." If I start to wander "into the woods off the trail" I look back at my initial sketch.
I also do 20 min 6x8 or 8x10 "starts" to eliminate the copying nature thing -as I don't have time to copy nature in 20 min. When I'm painting larger out doors I notice I make myself stop if I'm working on a painting too long. If I get all my information in the first 20 min and make myself stick to it I can usually get it. Its all memory anyway.

billspaintingmn said...

Stape! I hope there isn't going to be a test!
You are ironing out alot of wrinkles in this area.
I read, and then reread, it makes common sense to not go to automatic pilot when painting.
That bird was in the parking lot!?
Must be some big french fries in the area!

Christopher O'Handley said...

I recently "found" your blog, and have enjoyed reading through your posts. Lots of good information, and good paintings as well!

I do have a question from an older post - back in July you described your process for making boards. You said you use "Sherwin Williams professional oil-alkyd primer". Can you provide a little more information about that? I've looked at the SW website and it's not clear what product you're using. They appear to have a several options - a "fast drying" alkyd primer ($25/gal) that dries in an hour, a "multi-purpose" (indoor/outdoor) oil-based primer ($25/gal), and an exterior oil-based primer ($40/gal). I think they've changed the labeling so the current options probably don't match the one you have.

Thanks for any help...

Anonymous said...

Hi Stape, Just catching up! to Willek, Gruppe liked to put a sliver of a building to let the viewer feel where they were standing in the picture, connect the viewer to the scene. angeled at the top and bottom toward the center of interest. Sometimes a sliver of dock. (I'm pushing 70!) In the 60's I saw him demo and the first thing he did was put a sliver of a building on the left side, before roughing in the painting, his first thought was where was the viewer standing!
Stape every day your blog gets better, you have created something amazing, I checked and fretted the day you couldn't get to us. So much of what you say was used 50 years ago, I heard it as a young student in that wonderful time before 'modern art' swept so many wonderful teachers away, with few to remember what they knew, what had been handed down to them. You are the carrier of the torch, teaching and reminding us the wheel has already been invented!!
Thank you and here's to many years of your wisdom, Terry

Stapleton Kearns said...

He was a very sweet bird. Her allowed himself to picked up by an absolute stranger and moved.

Stapleton Kearns said...

The artist has to fight to keep nature from dictating too much , yet they must be able to seize the essential before him too.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Balance.....thats so important.I am going to talk about that some in upcoming posts.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I went out today and won this time. Different picture though.Working from memory is a great way to get the essentials and not the chaff..

Stapleton Kearns said...

Kittens are a dime a dozen, friendly, courteous pelicans are special.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks, I throw plenty of paintings away too.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I do. Usually I will shoot them with retouch varnish, but sometimes I will wipe them with a rag dipped in liquin.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Of course the 19th century guys worked in their studios from drawings made on location.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I agree. I like going to paint outs and meeting the people who are painting. But I have a problem at the end of the day because I don't like selling my art for the prices that the visitors to those things expect.

Stapleton Kearns said...

You know painting gets HARDER not easier the more you learn about it.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I wish I had your discipline. That's a great way to work! I should do 8 by 10 sketches first, but I get all excited about slinging paint with my # 12 brush.

Stapleton Kearns said...

It is hard not to go on autopilot. The bird WAS looking for a handout, in the parking lot of a gas station convenience store.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I believe they have changed the labeling somewhat, and I think it varies from state to state now because of regulations concerning VOC 's. The product I used to use was called enamel undercoater and primer. Now I use what I think is the second one on the list. It is an interior product. Don't buy a gallon though, buy quarts. It has a short shelf life once it is open.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you so much. I am glad that you find my blog useful. I am handing down the things I was taught by all of the mentors I have had over the years.

Katherine Muschick Schneider said...

Interesting post about differences in opinion on the value of differing degrees of "finish" in plein air and studio landscape painting.
"Fresh and loose" to one artist may be considered "sloppy and unfinished" to another.

Your painting displays beauty in many of it's degrees of finish...

BTW - I was not "an absolute stranger" to that sweet young pelican when I picked him up and moved him off my car. I already had him eating out of my hand :)

A "Pelican Whisperer"