A Devil in the Detail

This week I thought about how I often prefer the details and cropped portions of my paintings more than I like them as a whole!

I had forced myself to stop fiddling in the studio and just start painting …“because you should.”  When I stopped painting, I realised I certainly hadn’t created a masterpiece, but I did like this bit, that section and maybe this part. It’s been happening for ages now, just look at my Instagram.  So, what does it mean?

It means I had one of those “aha” moments as I was subsequently preparing some large sheets of paper with gesso.   Usually I cut them up then gesso them, but feeling both lazy and more efficient at the same time, I just did the whole sheet at once.  I’ll cut it later, I thought as I slapped on the gesso.

While casually gessoing it came to me. I know! ….. Just make a painting on the whole sheet! Find the good parts later. Then chop it up!  Such a simple idea, but it seemed like a revelation at the time.

I think it came to me as a result of a subscriber’s comment on my last Studio News, “Fiddling and Floundering About” where she recommended I work big.  My reply to her was that I could feel “big” lurking somewhere.  I’ve felt it for a while now, but not paid too much attention.

So I decided to start a couple of larger pieces based on a crop design that I’d found in an earlier painting (above).  Step one (below) seemed ok and I couldn’t wait to get back to it.

Stage two (above)!  Well, I wasn’t at all sure about this?  Waiting to see how I felt about it later seemed like a good idea.  What I’ve done doesn’t match up to my ideas or expectations.  (The story of an artists’ life!)

What next?  I thought I could see an interesting white shape to keep, so I started putting on more colour and doing a bit of drawing based on that. After realising that I was only fiddling about, I forced myself to stop! (Good heavens! I feel like an app on my phone. Force start, force stop!!??)

I’m still not excited about this one though.  Why is that I wonder?  I started this image the same way I do when I paint small, so, in theory, you’d think it could work.  I have heard it’s not that easy to “go big” though.

Looking at my colour mixes, I feel like there’s too much variety and they don’t work together as well as I’d like.  Yucky greens.

The shapes are interesting enough, yet they haven’t inspired me.  Is it the comparative shape sizes or the number of shapes in relation to each other and/or the format?

There are lots of mid values with some white and black.  I like the unsaturated version better than the coloured one, so, the values are not too bad, but, they could be designed better perhaps?

I don’t think the initial big black brush marks work design-wise.  They seem to cut through on top of the other shapes, taking over (especially in the saturated photo) rather than working as part of the whole.

My big question now is, do I persevere with this one, try to find some crops I could use or start again?

Perseverance seemed unbearable so I tried to find some nice crops, but could only find small ones. I think the fact that I couldn’t find anything larger is a sign that I should start afresh. It just ain’t “special” enough. No point flogging a dead horse!

So, what’s next!

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6 thoughts on “A Devil in the Detail

  1. The Cropped piece of the first image that is part of the artwork discussed yesterday is successful I think. The other black broad brush stroke is not so dominant. I notice with the two that have wriggly lines that, as I scroll down, natural cropping occurs and is very engaging. What about using the back of a discarded piece of paper and begin your gestural process without using black? Choose a colour scheme and allow a different hue to be your skeleton. You may get an entirely different mood in the work.


    1. I think that’s a good idea Lynne. I used a blue green recently and it did feel different. I liked 3 out of the six I did. I tend to get stuck on an idea sometimes. I do love the drawing with those pens though!


  2. I really like that dull turquoisey blue. I wonder if the diagonals are fighting each other in the latter versions. Must be the colour that doing it rather than the tone. I love the first image too which has some beautiful complexity and colour variation. I am only learning still to analyse composition; not my strong point. Curious to know how much bigger you went??


    1. Yes, Gaye I like the blue too. What is it with green!? Funny how they say value matters more than colour. It feels like the reverse here. The second one is half a sheet of that cartridge paper. It seemed huge.


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