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On The Easel…

July 13, 2011

Untitled, 16x20, Gouache (In Progress)

I recently discovered artist Ted Smuskiewicz, and I suspect he will become an additional influence on my work.  Not that I’ll ev er paint like him, or even attempt to.  Of course, it may be the hint of Frank Frazetta in his work that also intrigues me.  I think instead it’s a case of learning from the man’s philosophy regarding painting.  He’s got strong credentials, well worth paying attention to.  He has reintroduced a question that I’ve read before:  “Why am I painting this?”  I’ve lamented previously that I needed to slow down, that I have been painting too fast.  What’s bad about that is that too often, a painting gets started without a lot of thought or planning.  I find what seems to my eye to be an interesting composition and I charge full speed ahead.  Sometimes that works.  Most of the time it results in mediocre, if not downright bad, paintings.  So lately I’ve been trying to slow down.

The last three major paintings I’ve done, “Island in the Stream”, “Along the San Gabriel”, and “Dreamer’s Trail”, have all been part of that “slowing down” approach.  The painting above, still in progress, is another.  An interesting note here is that “Island in the Stream” and “Along the San Gabriel” had been painted before, in smaller versions.  The painting above, as yet unfinished and untitled, is also a subject that I painted a couple of years ago at a smaller size.

Slowing down doesn’t necessarily mean each painting will take a lot longer than before.  “Dreamer’s Trail” was finished before I realized it.  But part of this slowing of the process includes that preliminary time spent deciding what to paint, and trying to understand why I want to paint it.  It does also mean thinking a bit more carefully as I mix colors and apply brushstrokes.  And studying.

In the case of the current painting in progress above, I knew I wanted to revisit the West Texas landscape.  But I’m also finding myself studying 19th century Russian impressionist painters a bit more lately.  In many cases, the earthy color palettes suggest heat even on an overcast day, and one can almost smell the dirt.  Kind of sounds like West Texas, doesn’t it?  I don’t consistently paint with the same loose brushwork, but I think that’s simply a case of following my own muse from one painting to the next.  Sometimes I want to paint with a touch more reality.  At any rate, I’m having fun with this one.  Maybe I’ll write more about the emotional aspects of it when it’s posted as a finished painting.

I’ve also been studying some other folks.

Untitled, 8x8, Gouache (In Progress)

The little 8×8 piece on the left is the beginning of an experiment.  Brent Cotton paints some of the most moving tonalist landscapes that I’ve seen in a long time.  Again, the idea is not to paint like him, but to try to absorb the feelings his work conjures up.  I’d like to paint more of these tonalist nocturnal scenes in my own way, and studying work like Cotton’s is a sort of signpost pointing the way, much like I use Erik Tiemens as a guide as I explore my own gouache brushwork.

So much still to learn.

So many paintings…

So little time.

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