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Blowing in the wind

Painting alone in my home studio (rather than at the Art Students League) for so long has left me a little adrift. Instead of having a plan for a particular painting in mind, I’m just sorta, well, a leaf blowing in the wind.

Just Glow 14×18 Acrylic on unstretched raw canvas

For Just Glow, the only plan I had was to a) work on unstretched raw canvas, b) cover it with white first to provide a base, and c) paint on dry canvas so I’d have some hard edges. I had some vague idea of painting a really abstract sunset… Once the the yellow, orange and red were down, I added the blue in varying intensities. Finally the (yellowish) white. The major difference here is that I didn’t wet the canvas first. So … Just Glow is another experiment.

I Wish 18×24 Acrylic

I Wish is a variation on my painting from early April, Almost Clear. Both are acrylic on gessoed canvas with the focus on brush strokes to try to convey the wind. Both are painting over earlier paintings I didn’t like (don’t ask, they were really bad). And the colors are similar.

But I Wish is more similar in style to my “normal” atmospheric paintings. Even though you can see the individual brushstrokes to show the wind, there aren’t a lot of hard edges.

The three paintings I’m working on now will probably be very atmospheric as well, although the judicious addition of a hard edge here and there is appealing.

My experiments seem to be narrowing down a little. No promises though. If experience is any indicator, I’ll get comfortable with whatever the new technique is and then want to mix it up and try something new. The difference now that I’m just working from home is that it feels like one experiment after another. So far it’s not gelling into anything that resembles a “comfort zone.” We’ll see.

Experiments are confusing

For the last few months I’ve been moving in and out of a variety of painting techniques: wet-on-wet on raw canvas, wet-on-dry on raw canvas, wet-on-wet on gessoed canvas, pure paint on gessoed canvas, watered down paint on gessoed canvas… I could go on, but I think it’s obvious why experiments are confusing.

Of course, I’ve been approaching this as an artist, not a scientist. I haven’t been trying something, then changing one variable and trying that, changing one more variable and trying that … and keeping scrupulous track of the results. In fact, the only track I’ve been keeping is looking back at what I’ve painted and trying to remember how I did it. And the answer isn’t always obvious, unfortunately.

But I’m an artist, not a scientist, so I think I’ll just continue with the experiments, maybe writing on the back notes about how I did whatever I did. Better than nothing.

So here are two very different experiments, and I happen to remember how I did them.

Blown 12×12

I started Blown by gessoing over a previously awful painting and leaving some texture in the brush strokes. After that dried, I wet the canvas with water and brushed in the basic colors with watered down acrylics. Once that dried, I intensified the colors with fluid acrylics (I recall being frustrated with the recults and thinking that next time I would use tube paint). Once that dried, I repeated the step with tube paint. And, finally, when that dried, I created the brush strokes for the wind using a very scraggley bristle brush (and watered down tube paint).

Many layers, a variety of techniques. I’m not sure how I should categorize it.

This next one is somewhat easier to categorize.

Intense 14×19

I simply squirted, poured and brushed wet (fluid or thinned with water) acrylic paint onto dry raw canvas (oops, after first laying down white paint thinned with water and letting it dry). I wanted to protect some of that white here and there, but there was too much paint swimming around. Tilting the canvas moved the paint around and I kept having to mop it up with paper towels around the edges.

As it dried (very slowly), I added yellow here and there. It was a labor of love with precious little control, which maybe reflects all the pictures of the California wildfires I’d been seeing. And there were certainly more variables than I initially thought.

The lack of control reminds me (a little) of some experiments I did a couple of years ago pouring fluid acrylics mixed with a pouring medium on gessoed canvas. The paintings then had a lot of hard edges, whereas this has none.

I’m glad I’m not a scientist. Trying to control for just one variable at a time would be difficult, not to mention boring. Somehow, even when I think I’m repeating an experiment, I end up changing more than one variable. Each painting is different, making its own, unique demands.

So it’s confusing. What else is new?