From the Studio

thoughts on art and process in action from a contemporary artist

Digital tech as a painting aid

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Until my daughter starts school next fall I’m still home a fair bit.  This means that much of my work gets done in the two days she’s at daycare or while she sleeps. Installation work is best done at home, but painting, painting needs to be done at the studio… mostly.

Detail of Pieta in Progress, digital shift in blue

I’ve been using Photoshop as a painting aid for years, and right now I’m finding it even more helpful because I need to make my studio time count.  It enables me to try out various compositional strategies for my current painting at home by overlaying different sketches onto my current photo of the piece.  In this case I decided to use a different photo-source from the same shoot to get a better angle on the head and sketched it in in blue to correct on the canvas.
One side effect to long breaks between working on a painting is that my ideas for the treatment of the painting changes over time… and it gets better.  Were I able to paint every day I would probably do what many painters do, which is to scrape off and repaint ad nauseum.  I’m still doing some of that, but much less this way.  I’m not sure I would have the patience to do three or five separate versions of the same painting as some artists do, especially knowing that the versions I like less would be out there.

What happens with the breaks is that I come back to the painting with different ideas about how to do it, having tried them out in broad strokes on the computer at home.  It means I can rework things, try something, try something else, and immediately get an idea for how it will look without having to repaint.

This compositional shift (above) was an easy thing to do in Photoshop. What isn’t easy to do is a different treatment of the paint, which is what I’ve decided to do.  Originally I was planning to do a fairly traditional late-Renaissance/Baroque style painting in a contemporary setting.  I’ve decided I still want the figures to have that feel, bt that I want more mark and action, even abstraction in the background.  To that end I broke out the charcoal to sketch and inject mark into the under-painting. I want more of a chaotic jumble with suggestions of alleyway items: cardboard boxes, trash bins, shopping carts, crack pipe, sleeping rolls, etc.  At first I wanted those in detail, but I feel like it’s the suggestion that is important, with glimpses of detail- more like a memory or dream.  The figures are more solid because they are outside of time.  They reappear going back thousands of years, they are right now.  Mother and child.  The background changes, that part stays the same.  At first I also wanted to suggest baby as well as adult, but the pose does that.  I may find other ways to hint at it.

Written by Mary Corey March

November 29, 2011 at 3:49 am

Posted in pieta, work in progress

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