Thursday, February 9, 2012

Spontaneity and work-in-progress

Detail of Morning Commute II, WORK-IN-PROGRESS

In painting, execution should always be extemporé. Execution will be beautiful only on condition that the painter lets himself go a little, discovers as he paints.

– EUGENE DELACROIX (1798-1863)

I paint as I feel like painting ... An artist has to be spontaneous.
– ÉDOUARD MANET (1832-1883)

This morning after I squeezed my chosen colors out on my palette, I sat in front of the underpainting for a good five minutes, trying to decide where to start. 

Finally, I decided to start with this guy walking along the sidewalk, and I worked my way out from there.

The usual way that artists are taught is to start with the big brushes and work your way down to the smaller brushes for the details. And that is a very good way to learn.


I say, once you’ve learned the basics, do what you want! I like to use the bigger brushes for the large masses like the trees, keeping it loose so the underpainting shows through in places. All the while, I’m keeping an eye out for happy accidents and if I like something, I make a mental note to keep it and maybe even emphasize it a little on purpose. For example, that little spot of orange in the midst of the dark bluish-green of the tree about halfway between the top of the walker’s head and the top of this photo. That was the underpainting peeking through. Below, you can see I went ahead and switched to a little brush to enhance that little spot a little with some soft vermilion. Then back to the bigger brush.

And here I switched to a teeny brush to brighten the highlights on the street just beyond the walker, and then to a slightly larger but still little brush to brighten parts of the foliage peeking through the fence there, then ... back to a bigger brush to continue with the trees and the tree trunks ...

... then, after using a bigger brush to add more sunshiny grass colors in the left foreground, back to a small brush to develop the woman jogging with the stroller, and to add some flecks of color here and there, just because I felt like it. If you look very carefully at Colin Page’s paintings, which are chock full o’ sunlight, you can see that he puts what I like to call “sunshine dots” in various places to give a sparkling sunshiny effect. The main thing with those fun little confetti spots is NOT TO OVERDO!

Then, back to a BIG brush to develop the soft colors of the foliage in the distance beyond the woman, then back to the smaller brush for ... well, you get the idea. I just let the Spirit move me as I work!

So here’s how the painting looks so far. Check back tomorrow to see further progress!

Hasta mañana, amigos!


Virginia Floyd said...

I love seeing your work in progress, Karen. I have bought some acrylic paints to try some under paintings.
This is going to be another beautiful painting. And congratulations on the commission!

Anonymous said...

I do think I might actually be starting to understand, or maybe I am starting to see what is happening. Not saying I will be able to do it when it comes time to do it. . .but I am starting to get it. Will be a while before I can do any traditional painting. . .working on a kids book. Seriously thank you for sharing your process!