Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Roeliff - How I "Think" while Painting

More snapshots of the Roeliff painting process.

Below is where I left off in the last post...  I don't think in words as I paint or draw, generally (the verbal silence is such a relief for me), but I can look at these intermediate photos and recall what I did, and in some instances why.  I'll try to provide some glimpses into the reasons.  The living process is much more like feeling or dancing and a lot less like thinking or talking than it sounds in the paragraphs below.  Think of this as a translation into a very different language.

In the snapshot below you can see where I added green in the upper right (which made my life more difficult) and in a few places on the upper left, to help the trees stand out a bit more and engage the top edge.  I also added blue to the center to unite some fragments and create more of the sense of water I was feeling.  Also more intense blue in the bottom center to accentuate a vertical edge and echo the falling line of the fish above.  The small light stripes near the right edge put the red kayak into motion for me.  (That neighbor's red plastic kayak was too small for us, but it featured in several adventures.)  A few sections are starting to make some sense to my eye, while others (top right hand corner) are bothering me more.

Here is where I decided that the problem, for several reasons, was the pearl crescent butterfly in the upper right, as well as the green being too bright.  Actually, in this image I've painted out all of the flying insects, added more wild roses, and several orange accents in the lower half.  I also darkened up the lower left corner.  That shape doesn't work for me - more on that later - but what was there previously wasn't working, either.  This is also where the sun starts being even more of a child's sun, but I feel I did not go far enough or let go enough.  I also warmed the lower right corner with some burnt sienna.  That section might be closer to the actual color of the Roeliff much of the time - she ran muddy after every rain, and she had a green-brown bed due to the silt and plant life covering many rocks.

By the snapshot below I had added two more roses in the upper right, removed the small orange shape in the center (which was interfering with the movement of the fish down the center and dividing the page too much, top to bottom AND side to side), and reduced the intensity of the lower central orange shape (I have no idea what that shape is - it is there to echo the fish to the right and lure the eye back around to the left and up after the visual fall down the kayak).  More wild strawberries and rose leaves.  And the most important change, to me, is the fixing of that jarring end to the red-winged blackbird's tail. The same softening is applied to the sharp edges of the yellow green strokes coming down from the lowest roses in the last snapshot.  Those edges were also breaking up the flow.  There is also a little ultramarine blue added to the left hand edge, down from the house, which ties that side of the painting into the center, somewhat.  More dark between the two sycamore trees helps their flow and also ties the upper left to the rest.  I removed some of the sun's echo (the hard curved edge of blue below the sun) and helped my feeling of water by adding a level edge, instead.  This is getting close to what I want, how I feel about my childhood Roeliff.  The bottom left doesn't work for me, though - it feels cut off.

This last image below shows a solution for the lower left, where I added ripple/motion lines in white, and softened the hard thalo green edges between those ripples, toward the top left of the triangle.  Those changes help create the visual motion I want (closer, anyway) and unify the piece more.  I sacrifice some drama, doing that, but it's the wrong kind of drama for my vision here.

Frankly, the original is darker than these illuminated snapshots, and the thalo and ultramarine do not always play well together.  The entire painting is far more acid than I wanted or like.  I had to over-work some of the surface, and lost freshness.  A few areas look a bit scrubbed.  But I learned a lot here, and this is the closest I've been in a long while to letting my heart paint and keeping my head more on the sidelines.  There is a playfulness that promises to open doors and windows.

I may fiddle with this a bit more, but I'm frankly itching to get a fresh sheet on this board.  And short of minor adjustments, I doubt I can improve this much without taking it in a totally different direction.  I might do that...  It would mean breaking out inks, and/or acrylics, and that changes everything (right now it's all watercolor).  Or I may keep this as-is for the lesson and direction it points out.


susan said...

When I saw the earlier working versions of this piece I never thought you'd be able to contrive anything realistic by the end of the process. You've proven me wrong. It's a dynamic yet dreamy piece you should be pleased with.

I agree with you that the whole thing turned on losing the butterfly. Funny how things like that work.

linda said...

Hi Steve! Lovely to see you again and your work. I've been meandering thru your latest process as you create. Fascinating! I've missed the interaction and challenges you seem to be seeking. Life has a way of getting in my way along with my body. But I'm throwing gouache around lately, quite fun as it can cover up my many messes. :)

I don't think this will link to my blog so it's http://countrywomanpaints.com - I hope you'll wander by someday. Yea, wordpress. I'll be back to see what you're offering!