Taming the beast
by Robert Conway
I found this article in my archives from when I had this other blog. This post deals with my attempts to finish my most difficult painting, thank goodness this ordeal is over, however I might add that I am pleased as punch in the way it all came out . . .
This one is so close to being finished, but as I go in for the kill, I keep finding these little things to fix, I am in the extra innings with this project. Now my wife, who usually never comments on issues dealing of my nocturnal hobby, is saying that it looked fine enough like a month ago and it looks finished. I am being referred to now as “the painter of sticks’, a subtle hint that I have been obsessing over this Hamptons vine painting for far too long. But to my defense, I need my obsessions, it just keeps my mind off what is happening in the real world which makes no sense to me whatsoever. Anyhow, I am going to have to lose this ‘stickman stigma’ in my house as soon as possible, so musical theme from this point on is of course, Momma Said Knock You Out.
It is not helping that my source material is an actual size blow up from a blurry cell phone shot which means I have to make things up and make my lines appear sharper than what I am seeing, even photoshop could not help me out with this. At least I am down to the tiny brushes now, so I am not too worried about totally screwing up. Words to live by: big brushes, big mistakes, little brushes, little mistakes.
This is a whole new painting for me. Quite a few of firsts in this one, lots of detail, a realistic style and most importantly my first painting with actual lines in it. I also broke one of my old taboos about never having any man-made objects in my paintings. Yep, out of the comfort zone with this one, most of my past work has been my koi paintings which are colorful and have very soft edges, I wouldn’t even call them lines. There is a certain level of discipline in this new work with the dynamic composition, strict attention to detail and hard lines that really make the whole process a tight ass venture, not that I am not happy about my results, its just not as fun to paint as my previous artwork. Also, my computer system has been down in my studio so I am without any of my music, this makes me uptight right there. I miss my headphones and my twentieth century bar chords. I am really itching to get back to painting something that is fast, loose, colorful and not so darn serious. However, just let me say that I have always wanted to do a canvas like this, I have always loved japanese sumi-e ink painting and I always wanted to capture that tense, dynamic energy of say a coiled vine or the branch of an apple tree so i definitely think I got my fill as far as that is concerned. Also, painting the deep contrasts of shadow and light and experimenting with the levels of depth in this composition has been and an extremely rewarding venture.
Here are a couple things that I am going to do to finalize everything:
I believe that the whole war will be won with this painting when I can make the 3 elements on the right side of the composition (the white window frame, the dark barn wood siding and the faded sign on the top) connect convincingly on the same plane, instead of it being just 3 separate pieces. My plan right now is to first darken the shadows of the white window frame, that element needs to be pushed back from the foreground, there just needs to be more depth in this area. Second, I need to lighten up the barn wood and hit it with some long highlights. Third, I need to slightly darken the white sign in the upper right and work it out with a longer more convincing grey gradation over the entirety of this element. I hope that these moves will make these elements work together with each other and that this whole right plain looks like a real solid wall. The part of the vine in the foreground that reaches diagonally through the middle of the layout also needs to be modeled more, it needs to feel more rounded, it is very busy in this area but I am enjoying it, that branch looks yummy enough to eat, I just have to smooth it out more. Then I need to do a just a general examination of everything and hope that I don’t add any more things to fix on my list. Hopefully after all that, I can put this horse out to pasture and start painting something else, sometime thing more fun. Can’t wait to spray this thing, I love putting that final finish on the worked canvs, sealed for all eternity in a UV coating, now that’s closure!
April 1, 2014