Canvas #9…update

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06/11/2010 by Sarah Ritchie

At the risk of sounding like an obvious nutter, did you know that you can borrow top quality books from the library…for FREE?! That is FREE…no money…no cost…nada! I just walked out of the library today with hundreds of dollars worth of books to read at my leisure. It felt like Christmas! One of the prime motivators for my book haul today was because I am stuck. Big time stuck on Canvas #9.

Folks have asked me what my painting “style” is (or will be)? At this stage I really don’t know…for each canvas I am trying something new, just to see what style I prefer. I am leaning toward a more abstract style, as I very much enjoy the impasto technique (using thick layers of paint) and my tool of choice is a palette knife, rather than a brush. This lends itself nicely to abstract. However, I am fast learning that “abstract” is more than just what you paint with or how thick the paint goes on the canvas. “Abstract” is a way of conveying your idea with minimalistic detail and a strong sense of composition, shape, texture, colours and a satisfactory degree of obliqueness. The technique is a LOT harder than I imagined.

Yes, I am stuck on a canvas which I HOPED would be abstract, but I think I am trying too hard and it is – consequently – slipping into a state half-realism that just doesn’t mesh.

I will let you into a little secret behind Canvas #8: The Watchful Crow (and, for that matter, Canvas #4: Hope Riseth as well!). If you look closely along the edges of the painting, you will see a very different colour palette peering through! I painted the bird and the aerial and knew they were solid. But the background I was really struggling with. In desperation I painted “abstract-ish” looking hills, clouds and a sun. I was not exactly “happy” with the piece, but I thought I had reached a point where I couldn’t thrash the canvas (or my disappointed brain) any further. I was ready to admit defeat and declare the canvas finished. I showed Simon and he told me – with the brutal honesty that I so appreciate from him – that it looked childish, cartoonish, had conflicting viewing angles and that he didn’t like it. Ouch. OK. Within 10 minutes I had completely painted over the entire background and started again from scratch. It was the best thing that could have happened to the painting. Thanks Si.

So, here I am with Canvas #9 and I am about to do the same thing. I like the composition and the idea behind the painting. I have mental direction, but the technique is totally baffling me. I think I am going to be one of those artists where – if you used infrared reflectography on my paintings – you would see another totally different painting beneath the surface!

Enter in Mr Library from stage left. I am now armed with books such as “Learn to Paint Abstracts” (Laura Reiter), “How to Paint Abstracts” (Dani Humberstone) and “Painting Abstracts” (Rolina van Vliet). Watch out art world…here I abstractly come!

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