Sunday, September 27, 2009

Lots of starts

Here's a demo I did for my workshop. It is a one shot 18 by 24. its pretty rough, but I thought you might enjoy seeing what at least some of them look like when they first come home. I don't think I will actually finish this one, but I have a picture in my head, and I can use this one to get color notes. This whole painting was done with one No. 12 nylon brush. I have been fooling around with some softer brushes lately. It may just be a phase I am going through. I am always fooling around with new materials .

One of the students in the workshop asked me what percentage of my paintings "work out". I think I answered 50 per cent. I do go through periods of time where that average is much higher. The high mortality rate is for starts I make outside. As I have said before, I bring them inside and work them up. Of those paintings that were started outside that are elected for finishing in the studio, I am guessing 90% end up in a frame. maybe more. The point of this is I make a hell of a lot of paintings. I have literally done thousands. I ruthlessly cull any start that isn't above the ordinary.

I have painted so long, that by and large they are all passably well drawn. I can get the look of a place, pretty much every time. The paintings that fail do so not because they are short on information, they fail because they are short on art. When my paintings are weak it is because they are matter of fact. I look at them and think,"so what?". Sometimes there is a spark of something in a start that leads me to say,"there is something here to work with". Sometimes the start is a "painting with a problem" and I can perform surgery of some sort and fix it. I believe in cutting my losses, I don't think that everything I do is golden. But if I do a lot of paintings, some of them will be good.


I was exhorting my students to do lots and lots of paintings. There are some artists out there who do only about six paintings a year. They work so carefully on each one trying to craft it as perfectly and as tightly as possible. The problem with that approach for a learning painter is that design is learned by designing lots of paintings, many hundreds. If you only make six paintings a year you don't do enough to learn to design them well. In the art magazines I frequently see paintings that are super tight and obviously took a long time to make, but the design has some horrible flaw, or is just uninteresting. Often these paintings are made from a photograph and they have no design at all, except for cropping. I suggest that you do lots of starts and one shot paintings and stack em up. You may not want to be a one shot painter when you grow up. My work I show is almost never premier coup,that is, made all at one go. But it is great to get lots of mileage under your brush and that's how to do it.

Tomorrow I am going to show you a way to utilize some of those starts that don't work out as well as the keepers.


willek said...

Its is great to hear these numbers from YOU. I feel like such a failure when my plein air's don't work out. Like I should be bagging groceries instead. Can't wait to hear what you do with them tomorrow. I have had quite a few non performers. Periodically, I unstaple them from the stretchers and stretch new canvas. The old the canvasses are in a growing stack in the shop.

Gregory Becker said...

When I first saw this post it was in my browser. I thought, hey Stapleton is posting pictures of a place he painted. I click and it's a painting. That painting, from my browser looks so real it fooled me. You get Rock Star status for that one.
When thinking about design vs painting the day...I have observed that there is alot of strength when it comes to interlocking shapes between differing elements, such as sky and land.
For example:
In the painting that you posted today I see the sky interlocking with the trees on the left. I can see the diamond shape at the end of the path locked by the trees and their shadows.
Are those interlocking design concepts something you look for and create if it's not there and am I right in saying that they give an enormous amount of strength to a picture?
I am imagining a puzzle fully assembled on a coffee table and gently trying to pull it apart using only my palms. There is alot of strength in that.

Gregory Becker said...

BTW Stape, you are one of my mentors.

Bob Carter said...

Everyone starting out in painting should read this, because seeing accomplished painters' finished work gives the intimidating impression that every time brush hits canvas a masterpiece is in progress. A few years ago I was talking with Don Stone in his studio on Monhegan and noticed a large number of paintings stacked up against a wall, all unsigned. When I asked him about them, he replied, "Those are from my Spanish period -- El Crappo." Hearing that gave me renewed confidence that it was OK not to succeed every time.

Jan Blencowe said...

I think the colors in this are so true to life I'm blown away. All those subtle earthy greens; some leaning toward ochre, some toward yellow, some deeper and cooler. Masterful!

Was this a limited palette of just a couple of colors?

Stapleton Kearns said...


I cut up the old ones and take them to the dump,usually.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Yes ONE of the things I do in design is try to get my shapes interlocked. I hadn't thought about puling a puzzle apart, but I guess it is like that. It does make the design hang together if the shapes are interwoven.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I think there are painters with a far higher batting average than me, but I would rather err on the culling side rather than the keeping side.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you. It was done with a full paletter and a limited painter. I found the definition of ebauche, which I think I misspelled. An ebauche is a colored block in over a drawing, a grisialle is a monotone lay in. I will get back to yopu on the imprimatura, but I still believe it is a dead color lay in.

Todd Bonita said...

Wow! I can't wait to see what you do with this too...I hope you're not setting us up and you end up putting it in a fire or something. I know you don't regard this piece as worthy of taking to the next level but I must say, it's a beautiful piece in it's own right. I wonder if you'll crop a part of it and make a smaller masterpiece or something...hmmmm...