Sunday, October 7, 2007

ArtPact #17

(Originally published on May 06, 2007).

OK now. Enough of that!

No more digging out paintings I created a year ago, or did at a workshop. After many months of not painting at home, I started to work on my next painting, yesterday.

It's inspired by a photo I took during our vacation in Grenada, on the very charming and quite secluded beach of La Sagesse, which has inspired several
sketches and provided a lot of incredible photos, including the one used by The JohnnyB as his new blog photo.

While walking along the beach, I saw a local kid and his grandfather, sitting on the beach, in the shallow water, totally absorbed in something the kid was digging in the sand. They were quite far away, looking like two silhouettes in the strong Caribbean sun. I snapped the photo, then zoomed in on them with the incredible LumiB, and didn't give it much thought. When I was looking for photos to put at the art show we had 2 months ago (was it really only two months ago!?), I bumped into this photo and it made the cut into the assemblage I created from 10 Grenada photos. I got several comments about the wonderful shapes in that photo (it has what Paintermon calls 'killer silhouette'), and it suddenly hit me, that it can make a wonderful painting, and furthermore - a great series, as it has so much potential. It's not every day that you have the perfect shapes all ready for you to use.

So, for 2 months it's been cooking in my head, never making it further than that.
(I was busy!).

But - when you have a painting simmering in you for a while, there comes the day that it just has to get out.
Like a baby.
- - - Or an alien.
- - - - - - Or vomit.
(I shall leave it to you, dear reader, to choose your own analogy... I try to cater to every taste, y'know).

Yesterday I started to draw it. The JohnnyB came home, and was utterly shocked to not find me in the living room, lazing around in the armchair in front of the TV with the brain-deadening Internet Backgammon that has become my escape in the past weeks (months?) when I am not insanely busy.

No, his lovely wife was at the studio, covered with pencil marks to her elbows (don't ask - I am not a neat drawer; let's leave it at that), in a state of being that mixed excitement with frustration, as I could not get it right.

I mean, drawing the shapes was easy, but I couldn't get the composition that would be IT.

That's what happens when you go through Paintermon's class. At some point, you simply cannot just jump in and paint without any preparation or thought. You can no longer bring yourself to just take a perfect photo and copy what you see. No - Paintermon has put the spell of us, forcing us to be bloody creative, which means thinking. How devastating, Eh?

After watching me struggle, The JohnnyB looked at me and said, "Why don't you do value studies?"

(and for this remark, I owe you, The JohnnyB!! thank you, Thank You, THANK YOU!!!).

Aaaaaaaaaaaaah - the V word!

What are value studies? Oh, you take your drawing, transfer it onto tracing paper (or any plain paper) in a smaller scale, so you can work faster and keep life simpler, and start blocking-in your lights and darks, working in black and white only, with a pencil, sharpie (or the fancier Tombo brush-pen). Nothing fancy - doesn't really matter what the drawing looks like, It's all about values. And you do several of those. The first attempts tend to be very much like the photo, and then you get bored, and start inventing bolder designs.
Since these are small (mine are 5" x 3.5"), it takes less than a minute to do each of them, and you end up with several ideas. At some point, you actually start to enjoy this labor, as it's basically just doodling.

"What's the point in doing that", you asketh?
Aha - the value is pretty much the skeleton of the painting, and the better the underlying design of your darks & lights is, the better the painting will be. And, it's easier to solve problems on such a small scale, when you are just playing with black and white, and not when you are facing a sheet of watercolor paper with a brush knee-deep in paint...
Now, the value studies - being B&W, have a very graphic look to them, so you need to remember that it doesn't mean that all the darks will be black and all the lights will be white. Nor does it mean they will be so binary super-dark and super light.

Once you start painting, and follow your value pattern you can have all the fun in the world with lots of colors and textures and lines, even add a whole range of medium values. As long as you stick with the initial value plan, you are free to improvise with the rest of the elements. Without a value plan, you may find yourself in the middle of the painting, struggling to compose it in real-time and make it work - which is much harder and stressful.

Well, after a long emotional struggle (despite all this artsy speech, 99.99% of the painters - and I amongst them - hate these value studies, although once you get into them, they become fun on their own).

So, I did several studies, most of them looked annoyingly wimpy and just wrong.

Then, in sheer disgust and frustration, I turned to the computer and played a bit with the image, to seek help.
The computer was, apparently, in a very dark mood - and inspired me to go bolder; I swera I heard it gloating at my lack of spine to come up with something meaty.

I looked at what it had to offer, adopted part of the idea, and came up with this value pattern, which was the first one that I felt I could work with.

It still needs some stylizing and work, but I think I finally have a starting point:

La Sagesse, Value Study, pen on tracing paper, 5" x 3.5"

Funny, seeing it on the screen makes it look almost like a painting...

Maybe tomorrow I'll actually manage to have the full-blown drawing ready. Might be a good idea to get rid of that incriminating fingerprint I so talently manage to stick right in the middle...

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