My Blog About Art

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.

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.