Water March 06, 2016 18:35

Morning Star by Harold RothI finished a painting I've been working on for a week, Morning Star, but I was not pleased with the way it turned out for a number of reasons. One of them was the water. It just isn't right, and I have messed with it too long, I think. I ended up putting a bunch of glaze over it, and that helped, but I just had to stop.

I did feel a lack of confidence about tackling the water in that painting. I clenched, afraid to wreck the work I'd done so far. And I'd had a couple of close calls on other parts of the painting (which I still see, even though I remedied them more or less). So I decided to do a couple of small water paintings this weekend.

study of water by Harold A. RothIn the first one, I tried to use some techniques I've seen illustrated, but they did not work for me. Only when I gave up on trying to impose them on the painting and let myself paint more like myself did it improve. Even then, it was just okay. I'd already spent too long trying to force it to be something I could not do. 

study of water by Harold RothThe next one I decided to just let the image arise, which is what I often do with an abstract. I thought I might be overthinking the water thing. I am all for studying and for learning technique, but sometimes the brain just gets in the way. That's part of the clenching issue too. But I think this one came out better. I pretty much ALWAYS do better when I let the image arise.

To remember what I'd done, I came up with a set of steps. I have to make sure to start with a fairly dark layer or two. I have a tendency to paint too thinly, so this means several coats. Just before each layer gets tacky, sweep through it with the flat brush used on edge to make streaks. Do another layer the same way. Then begin picking out shapes in the paint with another color. Here I used quin red + zinc + glazing fluid + Aeroflash colorless. I went over that several times. I stopped to re-emphasize the dark color (ultramarine blue) twice. Then I did further highlights with a pale yellow made from imidazolone yellow + zinc + a bit of titanium + glazing fluid + Aeroflash colorless. I gradually moved from a size 6 to a 0 Escoda synthetic flats for the highlights. 

I wish I had done this with the Morning Star painting. Maybe I will indeed go over the water section of that again and see if I can make it better by following these steps. I'm going to have to wait a few days, because I can't look at it objectively right now. I do know I have to get over clenching. That's a hard one. But I don't think there's been a time when clenching ever didn't make a painting worse. So I have to quit doing it.