From the Studio

thoughts on art and process in action from a contemporary artist

Painting Challenge- leaving it rough

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I pushed through a rough spot in the studio yesterday (not least because I forgot my headphones and had to paint through other people’s music and conversations).  I have been struggling with the Pieta painting and how I want to make objects in the alleyway fade in and out of distinction.   I want the figures themselves, especially the Mother figure to be more classical Renaissance in style, eternal-feeling, more real than the surroundings, but the alley/background needs to be less distinct.

It could be blended and fogged, faded, abstract… there are so many ways to go.

Yesterday I had a lot of pent-up, agitated energy.  I almost didn’t paint, but then I felt that it was exactly the energy that should go into the background.  As I started to paint the supporting objects for the figure (a tent-bag, folded blankets, a roll of foam, cardboard sheets) I found myself drawn to a larger brush than usual and went with it.  Bold strokes came out and I found myself loving the space behind them showing the underpainting.

This is hard.

It’s hard to leave those raw marks and not fuss over them.  There is a tendency towards smoothing things out and making them more representational if you know how (something I see when I’m tutoring or teaching a class all the time).    …but when I look at other paintings, those rough ones are the marks I love best.

I think this is my answer.  I’m going to rough it all in in this style, leaving gaps to the under-painting and then pick out tiny portions of objects to add detail to.   I want a little of that dream-feeling that objects only gain detail when you look at them closely and become indistinct otherwise.  I want it to feel in-motion, impermanent, to highlight the rock that is the mother-figure.  I think the “child” figure will have aspects of both.

The whole experience was a uncomfortable and unbalancing, but also refreshing in a way.  It’s a sign of growth- we can’t learn new things when we stay in our comfort zone at all times, and I intend to keep learning.

The painting I find most sublime is when someone can play surprising elements against each other: rough against smooth, figurative against abstract, digital against organic.  It goes with the obsession with liminality and paradox.

Written by Mary Corey March

January 6, 2012 at 1:28 am

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