Monday, February 2, 2009

Copper Pot with Lemons, Before and After

Katherine Tyrrell has an interesting post today about how artists learn their craft. It seems that artists aren't all that different from each other, or anyone else for that matter, as we all learn by a relatively simple variation of the same idea - learning to see what we have created, comparing that to what we wanted to create, and then discovering the techniques, approaches, or materials that will bring those two ideas closer together.

I am constantly learning, and while I one day would love to be able to take workshops from artists I admire, right now I have to find alternatives. One of the most effective methods for me has been to purchase instructional dvd's. I purchase rather than rent because, one, the artist benefits from the sale, and two, I can watch it over and over, when it's convenient for me. And because, since there is so much information provided, I may not realize I need to understand a certain concept until much later, so it's wonderful to be able to go back to watch something again when I'm not concerned with questions like "what color is he using."

However, not every dvd has information of value to me, so I have had to be more selective. Many of the dvd's made more than a few years ago have a different approach (more basic instruction) from those made more recently( mid to experienced artist ). My most recent additions include "In the Studio With...Sherrie McGraw."

This is one of the first still life paintings I did last year, when I decided to try something new. I liked it well enough. I thought the drawing was good and the overall composition pleased me. But I felt that the painting lacked weight, or presence, or...artistic craft. There. I said it. The painting kind of sucked.

So, after I watched Sherrie McGraw, I realized that I could take a second shot at this painting. McGraw had mentioned that she loved the actual painting process - as do I - and sometimes worked on a painting for several weeks until she was satisfied.

This was a form of "permission" to me, to let go of my fear of "overworking" - that dreaded comment so frequently thrown out to beginners at critiques. I decided that the painting would never see the light of day as it was, so why not? Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I took a palette knife and scraped back the paint and started again.

As you can see, I added the lovely branches in the pot, with their dried berries. I scattered a few leaves into the foreground because I realized that I needed interest there to move the eye. I also knew I could suggest the forms and paint abstractly as a compliment to the lemons. I worked on the movement of light across and into the forms. I discovered new approaches to applying the paint. When I was nearly finished, but still stuck on how to best describe the light flowing over the copper pot, I stumbled on a solution. I turned off the overhead lights in my studio and painted using only the north light, with my spotlight on the still life set-up. Suddenly I could clearly see the play of light and shadow.

I am a lot happier with this improved version of Copper Pot with Lemons. I learned additional techniques, I discovered some strengths I hadn't full appreciated, and I can see progress. All in all, it was a good day.

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