Monday, January 21, 2013

Art Resources: Books vs the Internet

Yes, still hacking away at new color stuff, but gave in this morning and took a book break.

The studio at 8 am.
I like books best for resources and inspiration--they fill more than four bookcases around the house--three of which are stuffed into the small studio where I paint. That collection might seem excessive to some, but I turn to it every day. Yeah, I have a computer downstairs; definitely use it for an instant resource or answer, and have thought hard about a laptop for the studio, just as a convenience. But nothing seems to replace the information from my books.

Best of all, when my head is crazy with art/internet/business, or is overwhelmed by a new experiment in painting, grabbing a book, my chair, and a cup of coffee guarantees total peace. I never get that from a screen.

I suppose my reliance on (and love of) books dates me fairly, but does anyone else prefer books 
over the web for art resources?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Focus and an Attention-Fix, Part 2: Black Lines and Color

 Bashful Little Q (detail). Acrylic on paper.

I've wanted to focus more on color--especially exploring systems that are quick and effective to use.  Last summer, I bought the book, Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter, by James Gurney. Within it (and within his blog), Gurney introduces his Yurmby color wheel/Gamut mask system. I'm a slow study, but finally sorta got it and recently painted a wheel of my own.
(*Seems that this system would be ideal for the "realist" approach to verisimilitude in a painting. Not sure yet how it will affect my work though.)

Still, I want to know this stuff. My wheel's done with sign-paint--the paint I use most often.
Did I do the wheel correctly or accurately? I lost concentration, patience, and some value control; so probably not. Still, not being much for perfection in things like this, it'll do for me.

Gurney uses it to find and easily limit the color range. Check out his book, or his blog  for the details.
(It really is a great blog--Gurney has a startling (but fascinating) scientific approach to art.)

While I read the book, blog, and fussed with the wheel, I also hit the exhibit, Becoming van Gogh, at the Denver Art Museum. While Gurney's color system is hard on my brain, the van Gogh exhibit resulted in complete and perfect euphoria. The best exhibit I've ever experienced, it left me full of questions; quite a few about color, lots about van Gogh's use of color.

Landscape Under a Stormy Sky (detail), by Vincent van Gogh

(*Bernard wrote that van Gogh was "searching for a style freed from any realistic imitation", and the exhibit catalog contains this statement: "van Gogh understood full well that verisimilitude had had its day." This interests me greatly.)

So the focus, or point of all this?
 I want to study the color use of favorite artists (who use black and color) like van Gogh, and see if Gurney's color gamut system makes sense within those contexts.
Will the system work for uses other than realism and verisimilitude?
Will it prove an efficient aid in color selection?
Will the system enhance the effectiveness of color?
I assume the answer will be yes to all, but looking forward to finding out. Also most interested in your ideas.
(More artists next post.)

Thanks, as always, for reading!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Focus and an Attention-Fix, Part 1

 The Good King Escapes. Acrylic on board, 9" x 12". Private collection.
A work using black and a (purely accidental) limited palette, ca. 2010.

I've been all in my head for the past month, thinking and painting in my brain instead of on actual surfaces.  That's always been part of my process--that, and being fascinated by works of other artists (some will be in the next post).  But I'm analyzing my own works as well, because the new ideas incubating inside are demanding more focus from me.

Looking back over my past artworks highlighted the following: 

1. Process and experimentation trump everything else.
2. Output is eclectic.
3. Black with color has been a continuing infatuation.
4. I've gone from working mostly in watercolor to working mostly with acrylic. 
5. There's always more to learn about paint quality, color, and value.

Re-reading my private journal entries is also helping with focus. Those entries are mostly emotional reactions to what I've seen, read, or heard, but the thoughts most important to my art rise up out of the pages quite clearly.

Skeptical Cat (detail). Acrylic on Oak Wood. Private collection.
Color harmony practice (?), ca. 2011

A focus on paint quality, color (with black!), and value; these are the unfair demands which are pushing at my lazy, un-centered self.
Is focus important? Ugh--it hasn't been before--goals and planning have never been high on my list. But there is a weird ripening going on inside right now. It is insisting I take heed. 
So okay, I will.

Next post: Focusing (obsessing) on works of three amazing artists, and a bit about color.

I appreciate you stopping by!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

And Over and Over Again!

I indulge in it, I learn from it, and it fills my gut with a particular magic that isn't available through other avenues. The repeated reading of a favorite novel, the persistent return to music that charges me with it's electricity, or the searching of the eye over a familiar object. And there's nothing like the exploration, over and over again, of an artwork that has spoken to me.

Lantern study. Pen and ink, approx. 4" x 4".
And I love to revisit my own visions, too. To think up an object, like the lantern above, and then re-think it in different iterations. Not just to re-sketch, but to examine it in my head.  That's a peculiar exercise, but very often a rewarding one--especially if I've forgotten my sketchbook, and am stuck in a boring situation.

Some have told me that re-reading a book is a waste of time when there are too many books to know in a lifetime, but I like the discovery within the familiar too much to never experience it again.

Such is the case with an artwork. Mind, I don't mean that I don't get weary of some over-used images, but sometimes just changing my own mindset is all it takes to re-appreciate the Mona Lisa.

Blue Bottle. David Sheirer. Watercolor, 2.5" x 4.5" Image copyright the artist.
I've owned this remarkable little piece for nearly two years. I admire all the works I've seen by this artist, but I was fascinated, completely riveted, by this one at first sight. It hangs in my studio, and I study it over and over. Sometimes I look at it to learn, sometimes just for the aesthetic experience, sometimes to see if I can see something new.

One of the best things about owning an original--even if it's only one--is the reward of repeated viewing. The technique, the paper, and the paint quality are more layers to investigate, and those are sadly absent from posters, digi-prints, or pictures in a book.

The best education comes from knowing only one book...purity comes from that, and proportion, and the comfort of always having an example close at hand.
                                                             -James Salter, Light Years

Could I live with Salter's philosophy?  No, emphatically. But I like it. By limiting myself (at times), the indulgence in repetition is an invaluable part of my learning.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Some Cranky Bird Sketches.

Got a chance to relax a bit today, now that the holidays are over. So I leafed through a sketchbook from a few years ago. It was nice to see how much watercolor sketching I'd done back then. Here are a few more from the same book:

All of them are looking pretty aggravated. No explanation for that though.
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