Using Loss of Control to Your Advantage

It occurred to me recently that, not only is the painting of each piece of art out of my full control, but, so is the whole adventure. No longer do I, or can I, plan what a painting might look like.  Neither, can I plan where I’m headed on this journey in the short or long term!

Firstly, the act of painting.

I’ve been “planning” a couple of things. One is, to mix some more original colours before I start and make the paintings more authentically mine.  Also, I’ve had lots of ideas for design starting points.  I seem to collect heaps of them for just this purpose! 

But, it just doesn’t happen folks.  The gear is laid out, the paper ready and in I go, with minimal, if any, thought of my plans, loose as they may be.  Stuff just happens, as it did in the first stage of the painting above, leaving me with the job of deciding what “it” wants and following the leads.

At this next stage, below, I’ve collaged on some paper, some of which is thickish handmade paper. I’m wondering if it’ll last the distance? But, hey, I’m not in charge, so who cares.

I pressed on with it, feeling both out of control and excited.

It seemed like a good idea to digitally explore the possibilities so I used a photo editing app to play about with the paintings. Using the “whiten” feature I designed various sky shapes. Two variations are shown below.

I ended up with heaps of options! Which to choose!?

Below, I’ve painted the first layer of white paint for the sky shape of the selected option. Then, it tells me, “fix” that big blue bit at the bottom.

So, I did that, but still not happy …. it needs a little something?

It’s only minor but I added some graphite outlines and emphasised others. But! It’s still out of control! I can’t seem to “like” it enough for it to be finished. Not sure it should even exist! (It may be the first layer of something else.)

So, you can see, there really isn’t any way to control where a painting will finish up when working like this. There may be more to do on this one, or it might be painted over. These developments, however, inevitably lead to new ideas and discoveries, both welcome and unwelcome!

Secondly – overall plans for the year.  I made a few in some areas, such as a small list of themes or “subjects” to tackle!?  But, you guessed it.  We’re not on track there either. We’re off somewhere looking for something else, with no idea what it is!

Now, to be fair to plan making, my art and I are heading in the general direction that I planned. I’m making art and moving forward with associated stuff. It’s just that our route is taking us on a few unforeseen deviations along the way.  It makes for a more interesting trip. Who knows where we’ll finish up!

Do you suspect, as I do, that art might be different to a lot of other things, in that all this change and redirection of effort can successfully be allowed to happen? It can lead you to the unknown but pleasing goal you didn’t know you had!  The one you were not obliged to achieve.  And along the way you created paintings that you didn’t know you were going to paint.

New Paintings

Here are two new pieces that have been listed on Bluethumb.  Click the images for more information.

“Shardonnay Mountain” 71cm wide x 67cm high
“Stay Cool” 68cm wide x 66cm high

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Working With Wedges

I’m continuing my explorations with the wedges I bought recently. It’s amazing how many random sundry items can be used to drag paint around a piece of paper, old credit cards, cardboard, kitchen utensils……!

(Paint dabbed on direct from the tube then pulled across the paper.)

It’s just so much fun. I find it hard to stop myself from overdoing it and ending up with a muddy mess!

You can also scrape into the paint with these wedgy devices to create interesting effects. Even combs meant for hair provide interesting marks, as long as you don’t go overboard. Finally, a use for those head lice combs I had for the kids!

(I’ve used an old comb and my wedges here.)

They really are a recipe for fun, experimentation and adventure. The hard part is balancing the excited kid and creating an image with a hint of artistic finesse! “Revelation” which I’ll be uploading to Bluethumb soon, was a success story in this regard. Here it is after the first restrained session.

(The beginning of “Revelation”)

With something like this you tend to become tentative about what to do next for fear of wrecking everything. This time I opted to paint in a sky shape quickly and step away. (Must maintain that fresh quality).

Anyway, this is how “Revelation” turned out. It’s one of the lucky ones in that I was able to hold back from overworking things. It felt so good but it means everything happens so fast!

(The completed “Revelation”)

I said to some fellow artists last week that I need a helper, not to do bits of painting or other things, but to stand beside me and snatch my tools away at the most opportune moment in a painting’s development.

I’m about to start some new larger wedgy ones so we’ll see what develops there.

I took some wedge type tools with me on our recent plein air outing. I was hoping it would help make my sketches looser. In the process I discovered a couple of new ways to use them.

(Plein air sketch using wedges and a big graphite crayon for drawing.)

New Work

“Table Cape” and “Dominion” (cousins of “Revelation”) have been uploaded to Bluethumb. They’re both unframed but Bluethumb offers a great framing service.

“Table Cape” 68cm wide x 25cm high
“Veil” 68cm wide x 28cm high

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Art is a Fickle Business

One minute you’re all set to race off in one direction then, something new shows up.  Don’t get me wrong though.  It’s is not a bad thing!

Limiting myself or my art to a particular style seems counter-productive. There”s way too much to do and that’s without any new ideas or discoveries that come up.  The enthusiasm would wane if I imposed limitations on style. I need to be able to take full advantage of unplanned, random “opportunities”.

(“Play things” with a license to be fickle!)

While working on this issue of Studio News, an example of how things can change unexpectedly emerged.

I was processing progress photos of the day’s work and some needed rotating. It turned out that one was better upside-down! In my eyes at least! In the group of four progress shots below you can see the difference. I guess we’re conditioned to see land as darker than sky most of the time anyway.

(Stages 1 to 4 of a current exploration.)

As I pondered, my mind went off on a tangent, automatically brainstorming, the implications and possibilities, as well as how to resolve this painting? This change of direction (literally!) might see me veer off on yet another exciting tangent. I don’t know yet, but I can feel “something”.

It was only a minor fickleness episode but it could change the course of this painting and my art generally. Who knows! It’s a big adventure.

Another painting in the series has shown me something else to investigate. Layer one didn’t cut it, nor did layer two. So I plastered some 3 in 1 paint over the whole shebang. Now I have a background that I really like and it’s asking for something. I don’t know what. It’ll be a waiting game I suspect. An incubation period. Another adventure.

(Layers 1, 2 and 3, top to bottom)

Sometimes, it really is difficult to know what to pursue and what to forget. I think the only way to cope with all this fickleness might be to act on impulse. You know, those sudden intuitive directives that say “just do this, or that” or “what if we do this?” Be impulsive and fickle right back, test the fickleness, use it. Trust your judgement and intuition. Don’t be predictable. Instil a little adventure and excitement into the process and let it show.

New Work

“Trackwork” and “Swell” are now listed on Bluethumb

“Trackwork” 40cm wide x 28cm high
“Swell” 68cm wide x 25cm high

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Click here to find out about exhibitions I currently have work in.

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Keeping the Momentum

Happy New Year to you all!  Let’s get into 2022.

A couple of post Christmas bushwalks in our Southwest National Park have inspired me with their fantastic scenery.  We walked up Clear Hill and then into Lake Judd a few days later.  They’re opposites scenery wise so I have a variety of influences floating about in my mind.

(Amazing conglomerate rockforms on the way up Clear Hill)
(The birth of the Anne River at Lake Judd with the Eliza Plateau behind.  We contemplated the possibility of floating down the river instead of walking back!)

Whilst these photos show the wonderful scenery I’m not aiming to paint realistically.  Rather, my aim is to bear in mind the visual forms and textures, the feel of the place and my emotional reactions.

(The hills on the way to Lake Judd.  The area was burnt about three years ago.)

Ok, enough of that.  Let’s get started on the painting!

I thought I’d show you some progress shots of a couple of paintings from a current group of seven. They’re based on memories of the above plus bits and pieces I like about “Switchback” (below).

Somehow, I’ve ended up with two different styles in this group!  (Your guess is as good as mine as to why?!)

This first one was painted over a previous non-starter (below).

(Starting point – I thought it should work well because the palette is the same.)

As you can see in the photo below, I’m well into these paintings.

First, I created the hill shapes, then I thought scumbling or glazes might be a good way to go. A bit of lifting off opened things up. I scumbled the sky with layers of white and blue, trying to make it interesting, not too flat. Adding some new colour on the hills seemed a good idea and a “lake” began to appear.

(Stage 1)
(Stage 2)

In the version shown above acrylic ink was added to the foreground. It seems a bit too samey though, so, in the next photo (below) you can see I’ve lifted off paint to lighten some areas. I also darkened parts of the foreground to create more contrast. Almost there I think. Just wondering about lightening more areas on the foreground.

(Stage 3)

Now for the other style. It’s a bit more intuitive and abstracty but still with landscape shapes.

I managed to pull this out of the random starting marks!

(Stage 1)

I felt the stage above needed more colour so I’ve added raw sienna and turquoise inks (below) plus I attacked the sky and painted over some of the drips.

(Stage 2)

I then added warm colour in the white areas but it’s not feeling finished yet. I’m still feeling uncomfortable with that light square even though it’s smaller. Can that sky do with lightening too?

(Stage 3)

A couple of the paintings in this group are tentatively finished, but I like to wait a bit in case I see things to fine tune. Some paintings say “I’m done” quite quickly while others take their time.

It’s time to think of the next challenge.

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Click here to find out about exhibitions I currently have work in.

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