Painting with Intention

"Rising Cloud, Harrison Lake" 18 X 24" Oil on Canvas

Chromatically, this newest piece demonstrates the versatility of my 3 colour system. Yup, the same 3 colours as before!

But there is lots going on in this one with composition, and I finally was able to scratch an itch on a tight and structured layout without getting too uptight about it. I shot the photo from a kayak, on the backside of a little island out in Harrison Lake. I saw the painting before I hit the shutter.

I wanted to convey the exhilaration, joy and awe I felt in the face of this. The gate of heaven is everywhere, as Thomas Merton said, and at times like this, I think it swings ajar a bit. I have always considered the act of painting to be an act of worship. This time, it felt like High Mass.

So obviously, I needed to summon just about every tool at my disposal to project this to the viewer. Here is some of what I did intentionally, using some very strong hints from Nature.

So I basically started of with the time-tested grid of thirds, and the center stabilising pyramid. Guys have been using this since at least the Renaissance. So nothing new there. I wanted to lay a strong foundation.

You all know that Cezanne rocks my cage, and that I have been wanting to get at his knack for structure a little more closely, so this was the perfect excuse to establish a strong grid of repeating diagonals, creating rhythm, unity and a lively internal dynamic. painting and music have a lot in common, and I am not the first one to think so! I really did not have to manipulate the image very much to do achieve this.

Movement is really important here, too, because the cloud is rising off the mountain. But I wanted the painting to ascend in every aspect. The verticality of the trees emphasizes that of course, but they are static. Again, nothing new here, but I do not always get to apply all I know. Notably, this technique was used by van Gogh in his later stuff, and from him, Emily Carr, but I wanted to use more subtly, rather than it being the dominating thing.

Kinda like boiling water, this internal movement.

In fact, I tried to instinctively create some upward compression with curved lines in this piece too. The top and bottom of the "boiler", as it were.

I have also been interested in the way, in photos at least, the sky-colour seems to bleed into edges of things--especially shadow areas in tree tops. For this painting, I drew the trees in as usual, but then painted the sky-colour in further than I normally would, past where I wanted the masses of the trees. Then I used pure Manganese blue, straight out of the tube to paint over the dried sky-colour on the shadow sides. This blue is translucent in its unmixed form, so I effectively created a glaze in the shadow areas of the trees where they meet the sky. It worked well, I think. Although I wouldn't mind not being so freakin' versatile and clever in deference to developing an homogeneous style, it is good to impress myself one in a while with these little innovations :) I am very interested to continue these explorations in perception. I really feel like I am getting some work done then. Visual research, yeah.

But the biggest buzz of this piece for me was that I was totally in the zone for almost the entire thing. I really, really enjoyed seeing this one come off the brush. Yes, sometimes I forgot to eat--and sleep!

All I Can't Leave Behind

Sometimes I have to make a hard professional call. I figure about 1 in 5 paintings end up in the tip because of some inability to realize my original emotion, or my dissatisfaction with the composition, paint surface or something else. The photo above is probably the worse piture I have painted in a while, and I was incredibly frustrated with it. It will certainly be the worst painting I post on this blog, and I'm only doing so to illustrate a point. I totally stuffed up the island on the left, and after much fiddling with the sky and background, I decided to call it.

But it wasn't all bad. On the right side I think I actually managed to paint the squally rain-and-sun effects of September on Harrison Lake. My first attempt at painting actual weather, anyway. So I got out the ol' utility knife.....

"Squally Weather, Harrison Lake" 11 X 14" Oil on Canvas
I cut it out, slapped a panel on the back, trimmed it, touched up the sky and added my signature, and Tom's my uncle.

The difference between an amateur artist and a professional is that a professional know just how brutally honest he needs to be with himself. Like the Welsh Poet, RS Thomas said about poerty, it is "an essay in applied criticism". The stricter a critic you are of your own work, the better you will paint. 'Nuf said.


CanLit at the Uni

I went with a beautiful woman tonight to the second of the Massey Lectures, hosted by Paul Kennedy of CBC Radio 1's Ideas, my second favorite radio show next to Randy's Vinyl Tap and The Debaters. Well, some days it really is my #1 favourite show.

What was especially cool is that we wanted to see an exhibit honouring Robin and Sylvia Skelton "The Hold of Our Hands" at the Maltwood Gallery at UVic.

Well, well. There was a supposedly Private Function on, but we went in anyway. And we got to meet Paul Kennedy, the host of Ideas, himself. S. introduced me to Lorna Crozier. Parick Lane was there, too, but I didn't say hi.

The lecture, by Alberto Manguel, was great, and it was a really memorable evening all around :)

Pretty cool.


The Deaf Canvas Listens

"...one day something happens, the touches seem to 'take', the deaf canvas listens, your words flow and you have done something."--Walter Sickert.

"I wish we could open our eyes to see in all directions at the same time.
Oh what a beautiful view, if you were never aware of what was around you.
And it is true what you said: that I live like a hermit in my own head,
But when the sun shines again, I'll pull the curtains and blinds to let the light in."
--Death Cab for Cutie (Ben Gibbard), Marching Bands of Manhattan

"[Monet] has painted the gleaming iris of the earth. He has painted water.... But now we must give a firmness, a framework, to the evanescence of all things, and to these pictures by Monet."
--Paul Cezanne