Monday, April 28, 2008

My Learning Process Part II

As I was explaining in a previous blog, when I decided to engage in art full-time after 25 years of doing it "on the side," I confronted many challenges. Some were about my own insecurities, and other were more technical. As I have not yet resolved my own fears about "coming out" with my art, I will focus on the technical challenges in the hope that my experience may be useful to a reader.

One of the first strategies I used was to search for a "friendly medium." I was aware of my difficulties with charcoal, pastels, conte crayons, and anything else involving rubbing or erasing. I sought a medium with whom I was more familiar in an effort to even the playing field, as drawing the figure or a landscape with a time limit was overwhelming enough. I gravitated towards water media because it enabled me to cover large surfaces quickly. I knew how to mix paint and water to achieve the desired values. This is not to say I discarded dry media. I used charcoal for 1 minute gestures.

I also limited myself to value studies for a while, in watercolor and acrylic. In an effort to keep things simple, I did not use any color, just black and white paint, or ink and water. As I felt I was starting to achieve enough contrast and good midtones, I gradually I introduced ochre, red, and eventually blue. I still paint the figure with a primary palette. It is true you end up having to mix all the colors that you want, but it is a good way to quickly reach the values you want without a lot of fuss, and there can be quite a range of expression with just those three colors and white.

Larger paper sizes gave me enough room to work on the nuances in value of the bone and muscle structures I was translating onto two dimensions. This is specially true of the value studies, which required more space. Smaller sizes limited the amount of detail I could render, and thus made it easier to work in color. For example, I use smaller canvases when painting landscapes in oil and acrylic. I have come to believe that the more difficult or the less time you have to complete a piece, the smaller your paper or canvas has to be.

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