Lines June 30, 2018 11:27

Ancients oil painting by Harold RothThis morning I went to my studio around 6:30 am, as has become my habit. I paint for an hour or two and then come back to make breakfast for me and the cats. It's usually pretty quiet over there, and I can get a good chunk of work done.

Like any artist, I get stumped sometimes. I don't know where a painting is going and have to put it aside. I've found that the issue of oil paints taking time to dry has actually been beneficial for me in that it gives me time to think about what I should do next on the painting. So nowadays, I usually have five paintings going at the same time. This is quite a bit different from when I was painting with acrylics and usually had only one painting going at a time. And if I got stuck on that, I might not paint for weeks.

I've got plenty of room in the studio for drying paintings. When I was still painting in my loft, I had them stacked flat on a high shelving unit and couldn't see them. But in the studio, I can lean them against the window sills and walls. And that gives me the advantage of being able to see them all at once.

Maybe that's why today I noticed something about my paintings. They made heavy use of lines. I think I posted about this a while ago, saying that since I had developed a tremor due to ageing that I was going to be avoiding using lines so much as I usually did. But this morning I could see that nothing of the kind had happened. As you can see:

Blue Cloud oil painting by Harold Roth

Above is "Blue Cloud," which I just finished. Tons of lines in this. They just don't look like typical lines. All the cloud edges.


Violet Hills landscape oil painting by Harold Roth

"Violet Hills" (above) is not finished yet. This sat around for almost a week while I figured out how I wanted to depict the water running around the edge of the hills. This morning I figured that out and began painting the water as if it were skeins of yarn. I love twisting lines like this. Still more to do on this, but you can see what I'm talking about.

Incantation abstract oil painting work in progress by Harold Roth

This is "Incantation," which I started a couple days ago. I was inspired by the asemic art I've been seeing lately. This is art that incorporates marks that look like writing but that might be a made-up alphabet, imaginary sigils and signs, or just scribbles. Being so much a lover of the graphics of occultism and alchemy, I was immediately drawn to the mysteriousness possible with this art form. I made a series of marks in iron oxide (dirt) along the bottom of a canvas. When I returned to it, I extended the lines. 

htSeed oil painting work in progress by Harold Roth

This work in progress, "Seed," has been baffling me for a while, but then I realized that I wanted the foreground to contain a lot of veiny lines indicating leaf production. Just waiting for this to dry enough to do that.

Even The Ancients, which is the first image in this post, is dependent upon swirling lines to give form to the ancients. The only recent painting that doesn't incorporate much in the way of lines is "The Welcome Storm," which I finished the other day. I even remarked about this painting that I was not going to be painting any more plants of this nature because it was difficult for me to do with the tremor I have got.

So why was that one difficult and the others were not? Couple things.

One is that thanks to the process of "oiling out," I can paint with very slippery paint that allows me to make nice curved lines without any jitters. The other thing is that the lines I am using now are larger.

For the past couple of weeks I've been mulling over the direction of my art. I guess that's natural having gotten to the point of moving into a painting studio. There is a lot more pressure to produce stuff that is "art." And what does that mean? Something so lyrical (personal) that only I can appreciate it? Is that being true to myself, which is often seen as an important aspect of art? Or is it something that communicates easily with viewers? So much more mainstream landscapes? I have struggled and struggled with this for years, although I have felt more and more like my focus is sharpening. 

This morning I feel an aha! about the lines in all these paintings. Swirling, curving, biomorphic lines. They represent for me not only life but its energy and power. And that life might be "inanimate," like the edges of clouds or rocks. This also lets me know why I have so fallen in love with rock formations for the past year--because of their swirling lines. 

So from now on, I'm going to keep in mind that swirling lines are ME. I will try to remember them always and incorporate even more into my work. For me, the swirling line is the quintessence of the mysteriousness of living energy.