August 25, 2009

Work in Progress, now Done

Scumbling the lighter colors over previous layers did the trick: the surface of the painting now has some fluid brush work, that flows evenly enough to describe the form. I like the way the yellows at the upper edge of the shadow appear translucent while the lower color is opaque. This effect echoes the way the original object would catch the light. I managed to get a sense of volume; the center of the form illusionistically curves toward us, so the yellow curve is not only a side-to-side movement.

The image in this painting is rather odd in it's massive simplicity. When I work on paintings, there are those that I love throughout the making of them, and others that I feel uncertain about. This painting, with its strange composition and aggressive form, is one of the latter. I'll have to live with it for a while; I'll grow to love it or not. What do you think?

Update: I want to be clear that for me these doubts about my work are a good thing; questioning negates complacency, and can lead to growth and change.


  1. I find it compositionally problematic, but I can't say why. For me it just doesn't hold. The forms are too fragmented to make visual sense? What I'm drawn to in it though is the whole top two-thirds, that medley of yellows is gorgeous.

  2. That's an interesting point about the fragmentation. The big simple yellow against the smaller forms may not work. I've also felt that the painting held a hint of the comic, but it's not strong enough; too much neither here nor there.

  3. some thoughts about painting vs cartoon:
    cartoon forms are inherently graphic, usually exaggerated and are experienced more intuitively than intellectually. in your painting the large yellow area gets its shape and weight through brushwork indications rather than graphic contour - i.e. the form of the yellow area is implied (since it's cropped) rather than actually given. cartoon-style would designate the little nub (the only uncropped element) as the main character (except that it's a detail of the larger form), and its relationships to the other forms would be active (exaggerated) - it would be asserting its determination to exist there. since the metal shape at the right is cropped it becomes an intellectual participant rather than a full character...

  4. hmm, interesting, and a brilliant explanation of the cartoon, but I said "comic", intending to mean amusing, not cartoonish.

    in response to the graphic contour: would the curved line through the top and at the bottom of the yellow form not count as contour? if not, does a cartoon at all times have to show a full form? is cropping not allowed? At one point in my painting education, I was told that you couldn't crop anything because it would "destroy the form".

    But this conversation is causing interesting brain waves in my head....

  5. Alt - that was just off the top of my head, thinking out loud, not intended as a statement of rules!

  6. ahh, good. no rules. But your comment made me think of my work in a different way, with a different context, which I really like.

  7. Concerning cropping and "destroying the form", I've been taught that you can often tell a Japanese work from a Chinese one by the depiction of beauty. Almost like the baroque vs. rococo...absolute symmetry, completeness, perfection vs. asymmetry, cropping, imperfection. The Chinese pheasant is full-form within the frame, and the grape leaves behind it are perfect. The Japanese pheasant's tail didn't quite all make it into the picture, and the grape-leaves have bug-holes in them!

    1. Thanks, JBS, for pointing out that interesting comparison. Next time I'm in the Asian wing at the Met, I'll pay attention to that.