Bad Dog Charlie, Looking Dominant
Mysterious Ways of the Fine Artist
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Learning the mysterious ways of the fine artist has been an evolutionary process for me, as I suppose it is for most artists. First from pencil to pen and ink, then graduating to color while experimenting in various mediums, I officially discovered my "Style" upon discovering oil pastels. Magical glorified color crayons which allow tremendous freedom of marks and expression, they quickly gave my artwork new life.
My wise and wonderful art supplier/framers, Mike and Marjorie not only turned me on to oil pastels instead of pastels (because of concerns about the toxins I was inhaling from the dust in the air), but we quickly moved on to matt board, finding that it reduced flaking of the oil pastels.
Colored underpainting, Ooh-La-La!
Soon white matt gave way to brown which I used for years. And then thanks to another artist friend, Jean Cauthen, the evolution was made from brown to using complementary colors. Thus I have grown accustomed to painting over background colors, allowing the under painting to show through here and there.
Now this may be a little technical, but stick with me.
I always begin a painting by staining my canvases beforehand, preferably with liquid acrylics but sometimes with whatever is handy, using colors which complement the painting I am preparing to do. Because my usual subjects have a lot of blues, greens and purples, my favorite choice for the background is a combination of Magenta and Cadmium Yellow Medium.
I don't premix it, but usually paint directly onto the canvas so that the color will vary over the entire surface. This creates an exciting range of colors from peachy yellows to orange reds which will peek through here and there, intensifying the colors in the painting above.
My exception to the orange is if I am painting something that already has a lot of oranges in the subject, in which case I will use a mix of blues or greens. But I seldom veer off of these tried and true choices because I have found pinks to make a painting cold, while browns and grays seem to dull it, and so on.
Rule Breaking is not for the Faint of Heart!
Well, I have been know to break a rule once in a while, especially my own. So like I said, sometimes I use whatever is handy. The other day, my magical dependable magenta was missing (try saying that three times!) so I used pure cad yellow, instead. I was planning on painting three purple and white turnips, so yellow should be good. Right? Not right.
You see, I know better. I've tried this before. I have numerous unfinished paintings leaning against my studio walls with glaring yellow backgrounds glowering accusingly back at me. There is just something about painting over the color yellow that makes me crazy.
I don't know what it is. I love yellow. Dandelion's and Daffodils, a bright sunny day, the color of my grandchildren's fine, soft hair. So many nice things are yellow.
But a yellow under painting. It's a bit repulsive to me.
I think it's slowly beginning to dawn on me why. (Vague pun somewhat intended.) Yellow is a dominant, advancing color which thrusts itself beyond the lovely purples and blues and whites, to where they are hardly discernible above all that yellow.
You may not realize this, but yellow is a noisy color and can be garish if applied inappropriately. So it yells at me from the canvas. I swear to you it does, saying, "What are you, stupid? I am the dominant one! Wipe them off. Wipe them off of me immediately!"
Ah, but like my little dog Charlie,
Yellow only thinks it is dominant over me. I can banish Bad Dog Charlie to his crate when he poops on the floor beside me as I write (which, yes, I just did because he just did). And I can lean that loud-mouthed, yellow underpainted failure face first against the studio wall. A useless square of canvas and paint. Until the oil drys, that is.
Then I'm gonna wash my magical yellow-mellowing magenta right on top of that rude cacophony of color and paint those friekin' purple turnips, like it or not! Either way, I win.
Ha! Who's the dominant one now, huh?
Well, as I said, I sometimes make the mistake of using whatever is handy, even if I know better. As I also sometimes find myself saying, "Rules are to be broken." Wait. I hardly ever say that. So who was it that really whispered those words in my ear the other day?
Was it Cadmium Yellow Medium, perhaps?
Or, was it Charlie...?
The end of a good day.
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When I was a new painter,
one of my friends told me to paint every day, if possible. She said that she does so because if she doesn't, she might miss that really good day.
On a good day, an artist will not only produce work that she loves, but she will love producing that work. It's a day when all the color and pattern and texture and composition merge in a way that gives the painting a life and energy all its own. It's a day when dinner doesn't seem worth leaving the easel to fix, the dishes in the sink are invisible and the dogs never have to pee.
I had one of those days this week.
I prepared a few canvases, stained them, and just started to paint. After blissfully (yes, blissfully!) completing a warm little farm scape, I still had ninety minutes, a willing blank canvas and a few wet brushes. So I started and finished "Yellow Pear", a simple still life with dramatic light. As I look over the two pieces I did that day, I realize that for me, the thrill was partly fueled by the fact that I haven't been painting oils lately. I had expected a bit of a struggle, but the two paintings came to life so easily.
Though many believe an artist should concentrate on just one medium and style,
I find that the things I learn from working in one medium seem to expand my abilities even in other more familiar mediums. I realize that artists who concentrate only on oils or watercolors may become masters in those mediums. Then again, they may miss the medium that would make them masters.
As for me, I would miss the thrill of discovery and the problem solving challenges that come with new artistic endeavors.