My Blog About Art

Vials Series: Moon Vessel Finished December 06, 2016 18:46

Moon Vessel work in progress 112316I got the base painting of the crab done. I used titanium plus a bit of green I mixed to start the underpainting of the body (and didn't go further on, because it was not the right color for that). The crab is not symmetrical, which I know is going to drive me nuts, but then, real crabs are not symmetrical either. I am forcing myself to stop being so OCD about symmetry in things I paint. It's just another way of letting perfection turn into an obstacle instead of being a tool. 

Moon Vessel surreal landscape by Harold Roth acrylic on canvasI finished the crab part of Moon Vessel but ended up with the crab being too dark and had to do it over. It was worth the extra work, though, because the crab shows up much better from a distance now. I still have lots of work to do when it comes to keeping contrast in mind while painting. I need to get in the habit of looking at them from a bit away on a regular basis. That's a good technique for checking contrast and whatnot. 

I like the vibe of this painting as somewhat like a tarot card. I'm really glad that I started this series. It is much more to my taste than anything else I've done recently. It gets my imagination going and I feel like I am producing much more interesting images. I get to use my landscape skills, but honestly, it's nice too to be reminded that I can draw. I don't have to trace anything or use a grid or a projector or anything like that. I can just look at my reference photos and draw the image in pastel pencil with whatever modifications I want, thank the godz. I am totally grateful for this gift, because it saves me buckets of time and allows me to be freer in my image choice. 

It also makes me remember a youtube video I saw of a German hyperrealist painting a very large (over 5 ft) portrait of his son from photos about the size of a sheet of letterhead. I thought, how could he do this? He didn't draw it on the canvas first, just started painting and kept looking at the photos and then back to the canvas. And he wound up with this really fresh and good hyperreal painting. I wondered if he in-between takes maybe used a grid or a projector, but now I know that he did not. He was just really darn good at rendering. I've seen hyperrealists who trace or copy from a photo in little pieces in a way that just makes me feel awful to look at, but clearly there are others who use reference photos like this guy. I hope someday I can have such rendering and painting skills at my fingertips. Practice practice practice! 

I've got the original and larger prints available on this site and smaller prints on Etsy. I've been trying to post work-in-progress images on Pinterest, but it is just such a wiggy, buggy, and as far as I'm concerned, just plain creepy system that tonight I gave up. So from now on, I will post work in progress on my Facebook art page and here in my blog. 

Vials: Moon Vessel November 20, 2016 19:35

I'm starting another series I'm calling Vials. I want to continue to make use of my interest in painting landscapes, only as background. But I'm going to venture into using a lot more symbolism from the occult and from alchemy. I haven't done much with symbols since I left off doing abstracts based on the Golden Dawn color scales. But the symbols of alchemy and magic were the main things that drew me to those paths in the first place, and I want to make them a major part of my art, incorporating them with my interest in natural forms. 

background of Moon VesselI started with Moon, one of my favorite things to paint. I got the background pretty much just as I wanted--a fairly calm sea at night (because Water is a Moon Element). This landscape doesn't have enough interest, to my mind, to stand on its own, but its ace when I use it as a background for other things, I think. I've been realizing this more and more--my interest in landscape is not powerful enough to stand on its own. But as backgrounds for other things, they work well.

You can see the lines I drew to divide the painting. I've been using Faber Castell pastel pencils for drawing on my paintings, because they wipe off easily with a damp paper towel. I divided the painting into thirds because I wanted to feature three objects in it: a crab (which is a classic Moon critter, see the tarot trump of the Moon), a bottle with the moon inside it, and a luna moth.

I wasn't sure I could depict the bottle well enough, even though I had decided beforehand that I want all the paintings in this series to include a bottle of some kind (thus "Vials," even though a lot of them won't be actual vials). But I decided that I had examined enough Dutch still lifes to understand how to paint a bottle and that I should just jump in and try it. So that's what I did.

Moon Vessel work in progress 112016I found a number of reference images of antique bottles online but finally settled on an imaginary bottle because none of them were exactly the right shape. So once I got the moon painted, which was simple enough--a circle drawn around a hot plate and painted in with a number of layers of titanium--I drew the bottle and then painted it. I was surprised that it came out fine. Highlights are a combination of zinc and then titanium over that.

Next up was the luna moth, which was actually much easier than I thought, although I want to mess around a bit more with making the body look furry. I did find that, as I suspected, I could not mix a good pale green for it using the yellows in my palette--yellow ochre or azo yellow. So I used a new color I bought to use for sunlight, titanate yellow, with just a titch of anthraquinone blue and some titanium. Bingo!  I got this far over the weekend and hope to do the crab in the next couple of days. A chose the blue crab as my model crab.

Aquarius Moon is an Asshole + Finished But Not September 18, 2016 15:59

I spoke to a friend yesterday about my issues with images popping into my head in the middle of a planned painting and how I didn't know how to react to such things. I want to master traditional landscape painting but at the same time, I wonder if these images that pop into my head are the art I should be doing. I told her about my post-modern vanitas series now put aside. She knows about astrology and is familiar with my chart, and she immediately said that the images that popped into my head were due to my Aquarius-situated Moon. Aquarius like to be a contradictory asshole, and that's what was happening. It makes perfect sense! :)

She encouraged me to try my surrealist vanitas series and also had a good recommendation for dealing with weird images that pop up in the middle of a painting: that I make note of the image(s) and that I tell myself that those images are to be treated at a later time. Then I could go ahead and finish the painting I'd planned. I think this is a great idea, and I last night went and made notes of the images that had popped up and was able to continue working on my landscape painting.

Landscape painting Moss on Rocks work in progress, Harold Roth, 2016I finished the painting today--at least, I finished what I had intended to paint. But I don't like it much. The glazes I used to change the rocks from yellow to red to brown were too many and made the rocks really too dark to distinguish except under bright light. I then used an overglaze of perylene green + zinc + glazing fluid for the reflection of the sky on the water, but I should have thinned it a lot more than I did, because it obscured even more of the rocks. Then I didn't like how the wavelets looked. I know it will be different with an isolation coat on, which will intensify and deepen the colors, but that did not seem like enough. All that wavelet space needs something in it. If I don't put something in it or modify the painting in some significant way, I will just paint over it because I'm dissatisfied with it. So I figured modifying it was a better choice.

I like how the moss images look, very stylized, reminding me of 19th-century natural science illustrations, so I'm going to continue with that shape. What I'm envisioning is a bit fantastical, and that will be a first in terms of my landscapes. I said to my friend yesterday that I did not think my painting was good enough yet to do surrealist work, but I will give it a try here, since I consider I have nothing to lose with this image.

Addendum: I finished that painting, which became the somewhat odd "Nymph and Her Children." This was my first real step into surrealism, if I can call it that. Since then, I have set off boldly in the surrealist direction, because for one thing, it allows me to combine my enjoyment in painting landscapes with my weird side that enjoys symbols and emblems and mysteriousness.

So much for that decision September 16, 2016 14:52

Work in progress, Harold Roth, 2016I did the grounds for the next two paintings after picking out some reference photos. I happened to start with the one that is based on a photo I took at the shore of Seneca Lake. This has lots of mossy rocks and reflected sky and a very just slightly wavy surface. So I thought cool--tranquility or something like that. Although I surprisingly could not think of a title.

So yesterday I put in the colors that will show through the sky reflection (in the upper right corner) and began making smudgy shapes for the rocks in the foreground, which will be covered with moss. Today I went further in the modeling of the rocks, as you can see. The colors are weird because they will be covered with glazes that modify how they look.

I sat there painting and thought "Although I can pick out rock shapes pretty easily, it is boring." As I sat there letting rock shapes arise from the deliberately uneven colors, I had a sudden flash of not rocks but the shapes of human bodies. I stopped painting and focused on seeing that more clearly. Not bloody bodies or dead people. But just human shapes. Mysterious. 

I thought, "This would require redoing the rocks area. I'm not too far along, so it wouldn't be much of a hassle. And it would make for a much more powerful painting." 

But who would want to buy such a painting? 

And then I thought that question, although it's important if I want to make a living from my art, and I do, can't be the determining question about my paintings. Can it?

I posted a comment on a little while ago to the effect that instead of "painting what sells," as someone said, an artist should paint what is unique to that artist--their own personal vision. It's good business sense, based on the blue-ocean strategy where you create something unique so that you don't have competition. 

So can I take my own advice? Here I was all sure that I should be painting spare Luminist type landscapes. I enjoy learning technique and working on mastering my tools. I would be happy to paint such paintings. But everywhere I look, if I let my artistic "eye" relax, I see shapes within shapes, living forms, struggling to burst through the skin of the mundane. I feel like I should be painting that hidden world. But will anyone buy it?

I don't know.

And if they don't, will I become bitter, like some artists I see posting who have accumulated literally hundreds of paintings they can't sell and who burn them (!) because they run out of room and won't sell them for cheap? I don't want to become that.

But would I? If I were refining my own vision? Or would I end up that way if all I ever did was paint competent spare Luminist landscapes?


Reading over my last post, I see something I didn't see before--that what attracts me so much about the Luminist paintings is the dream-like quality of some of them. They seem full of some hidden meaning or something about to be revealed. Perhaps I can capture that dream-like quality in my own oddball paintings of, say, a shore with body shapes. 

I'm going to give it a try and see what happens. 

Indecision: Post-Modern Vanitas vs. Spare Luminism September 11, 2016 15:16

Kensett, Eaton NeckI have been thinking about starting a new series (well, two, actually) of paintings based on industrial buildings and having a connection to the vanitas genre. I mentioned this last week and today am planning to gesso a couple canvases so I can get started. But then I happened to see this painting, which I have loved ever since I stumbled across the Luminists a couple years ago (and read everything I could get my hands on about them). It's a view of Long Island by John Frederick Kensett painted in 1872.

Kensett, Sunset on the Sea, 1872Some say the reason why this painting is so spare is because he didn't finish it, but there are other paintings from this time, the end of his life, that are similarly spare, such as this one, "Sunset on the Sea" (1872).

There's something almost abstract about these paintings, but further, they are for me serene without being sentimental and beautiful without any showboating. They are what they are--acomplished landscape paintings that for me have a spiritual or dream-like quality. 

Roth, Moon Over WaterWhen I started painting again, I had no idea where I was going with it. But I well remember the first painting I felt was really me, the original of which I have framed for myself (Moon Over Water). I had never seen Kensett's paintings when I did this one, but you can see why I'd like Kensett's late works when I came across him. I think it's the combination of his attention to color and light, the smooth painting surface (no thick brush marks), and absence of a lot of "stuff" (people, animals, boats, roads, whatever). His paintings maintain the traditional "view from a window" approach of older landscapes, yet there is something about these landscapes that feels like we would not see this view in real life, that they are unreal and therefore dreamlike. It is that quality, the unrealness, that fascinates me most.

Kensett was a very popular painter, not least of all because a lot of the places he painted were (and some still are) vacation spots for the robber barons. He was successful enough to buy himself a little island off CT where he had his studio in the warm part of the year. I don't know if anyone wants to buy paintings like this nowadays, and I would like to sell paintings. But I know that this dream-like quality, this straddling of a careful rendering of an actual scene on the one hand and on the other the capture of a fleeting moment like sunset or a sea and shore basically without a human presence attracts me very strongly, more so than any post-modern or surreal vanitas.

My problem is that I just want to do all sorts of paintings. I get a little greedy that way or feel like if I don't go down all possible roads, I will miss something. But honestly, life just isn't long enough for me to master all these different kinds of paintings, and I need to focus my painting more so I can truly master what I do--so that I can best portray on canvas the beautiful, dream-like quality I often feel out in nature. 

So I put my vanitas ideas aside for now and dug through my reference photos of the lake and the hills of upstate NY to see what I can come up with next. I found about five that are good candidates and now that I've gessoed a couple canvases, I'll start putting on a ground today.