Saturday, May 26, 2012

If only I knew

Frederick Mulhaupt 1871-1938, lived in and painted Gloucester, Massachusetts.

There are now over a thousand posts in this blog. When one writes a book, it is a reasonable assumption as you write page 342 that the reader has previously read page 40. But in a blog people just parachute in anywhere they damn well please. I get a lot of e-mail queries that I have answered before or written about a year or years ago (have I really been doing this for years?) it was to be a one year project, you know. Keep those questions coming, it's not a problem, I ignore some of them anyway, or snap off a quick return to  the interrogator alone. I get some questions that really help me to know what to write about and inform me when I have been aphotic when I want so to be limpid. Here is an example of a question like that resulting from my last post on premixing the color of your light.

Dear,  Mr. Stape

Does this premixed light color have white in it, or is it a color or mixture of colors without white?

Deb Pilatory

Yes of course it does. I should have said that. The premixed color should be mostly white in fact, The premixed color should be high key, like the light itself, real high key.

The blog started out with me explaining the most basic information about painting and studio knowledge. I progressed through ever more complex subjects like design, color, tree anatomy, the art business, framing, American painting, a woman giving birth to rabbits in Elizabethan England and the curious narrative of Dirk Van Assaerts. There is a whole lot back there and some of it is useful. If you have the time,  I urge you to explore the blog backwards, that is,  starting from its beginning and working forward. It should take you about six to eight weeks. There is no index. Even I have no idea what all is in those archives.

Antonio Cirino 1889-1983 Rockport, Massachusetts artist
Tonight's subject is  "If only I knew" For me painting is about half observation, and about half problem solving. I am always looking at my art (and yours) and asking "whats wrong with this thing, why isn't it working and how could it be made to? " 


I might not know that answer, but there is one. If Willard Metcalf, Rembrandt, or John Sargent were to sit in front of my canvas they could rapidly fix its' problems. So if I knew what they would have done, I might know at least one answer to the problem. Often there ARE several. Sometimes the answer can be found through  careful observation and analysis, but just as often the answer lies in invention, design, obfuscation or rearrangement of the elements of the view.

For me a painting is finished when I have solved all of its' problems. In old movies physicists worked on multiple blackboards stretched about the walls of a classroom, writing endless equations and mathematical claptrap until they reached that last blackboard and did finally solve the equation. This is the process that lead to the discovery of flubber .

When I don't know the answer to a problem in a painting I begin plugging in solutions, what if I soften it all up or subordinate this passage to that one? I try a change, and if it doesn't help I take it out with the side of my knife and try something else. I have stood in front of a painting (particularly seascapes) and tried solution after solution for WEEKS. There are thousands of decisions in a single painting.

A painting has to be pretty much all "right". The viewer won't tolerate much unconvincing drawing or unpleasant design flaws, nor will he waste much time on a painting that is merely accurate or ordinary. Folks are easily bored, at least the ones who spend real money on art. The more expensive the art gets the smarter the customers seem to become in the traditional painting world. Oddly, the opposite is true in the modern art world.


 If you would like to know about the upcoming July workshop in New Hampshire please
click Here. I have included the cost of the workshop and information on the location in the White Mountains. I can teach you a whole lot, and probably save you years of screwing around. Why torture yourself ? Don't get left behind! You are worth it! Everyone's doing it. Act now.

The workshop takes place at a historic, wooden 19th century Inn in the White mountains with a view that is astounding, and all we have to do is paint. I park my car and forget it for the whole time I am there. I knock myself out from breakfast till bedtime to make sure that the workshop is as intense and useful as I can possibly make it.


barbara b. land of boz said...

Stape, you really get to the heart of the problem every time. Would love to join you for the upcoming workshop. But the timing is not right. I urge anyone who can make to do so. I still use all of the lessons learned from the first workshop I took from you in good ole Miss. Thank you for all the time you put into this blog.
Keep on keeping on....

Karla said...

I'm so glad you are back to writing again. I've missed reading all of your great advice and your wry humor! You need an editor to sort through all of this great writing and make a book. It would be great. What title would you give it I wonder?

SBoyd said...

Hi Stape,

I parachuted in at the section on edges sometime this February, then went back to the beginning and have spent quite a large percentage of my subsequent weekends devouring it. I’m still more than two years behind, though—which makes me happy :) Maybe it will last me the rest of the year!

If you keep track of the number of countries where your blog is read, I’m pretty sure you can add one: I live in the East African country of Tanzania (I’m a teacher working with missionary kids). Your blog is a big blessing—it’s the art course(s) I could be taking if I were in the States, only better!!

Oh, and good for your daughter Emily! I just read the post where you mentioned her work with Teen Challenge. I don’t know if she’s still involved in that ministry, but your post made me think of summers I spent as a camp counselor. I had a number of groups of campers who came from the inner city, so I can guess how difficult and discouraging her work must be sometimes, but also how rewarding. May the Lord bless her and may she see great fruit from her ministry!

tweenlives said...

Yov've not lost it yet, Stape. You did mention it..."On a sunny day I am going to expect to mix a red and a yellow into a lot of white to make the color of the light."

Anonymous said...

Oops! I guess I misread. I totally need to go to one of your workshops!

Philip Koch said...

"I have stood in front of a painting (particularly seascapes) and tried solution after solution for WEEKS. There are thousands of decisions in a single painting."

Yup! In a better world there would be merit badges awarded to painters who endure these long searches for those ultra-stubbornly elusive solutions. Sometimes you finally get it, sometimes you just chase your tail until you drop from exhaustion. You gotta love it...

Robert Ellefson said...

I finally read through every post, and when I finally got through with them all a couple weeks ago a mild depression set in. I'd learned so much and it was such an efficient form of procrastination that I didn't want it to end. Thanks Stape!

Anonymous said...

I will echo Robert's sentiment:

I'm reading through the blog in its entirety for the third time. While I do enjoy the instruction on art history, especially Gruppe and Hibbard, I greatly sponge up the how tos and the hands on instruction.

Perhaps most influential is the rule: you can't observe design into a painting. That one truth alone is precious gold for me and opened my eyes.

I dread the day the Stape blog school of traditional painting closes. But for now, I'm glad the doors are still open.

I hope we see another thousand posts!


DJ said...

I just keep coming back to look at your avatar pic.

Antonin Passemard said...

"The more expensive the art gets the smarter the customers seem to become in the traditional painting world. Oddly, the opposite is true in the modern art world."
I spilled my coffee all over my laptop because of you...are you happy :)