It’s talking to me …
Any artist worth her salt will say the painting “talks” to her. No beginning artist really understands. “Talks?” But it’s true and I have a current example. It’s talking to me …
I have a photo taken in Antigua which I love. I’ve wanted to paint it for years: the shadows on the path, the light shining through the trees … It’s a very complex landscape so I decided to do a sketch to try and avoid some of the pitfalls. Here’s the cropped and greatly simplified sketch.
Without thinking about it too much (my first mistake), I sketched it very lightly on a 18×14 piece of raw canvas taped down to a larger piece of foamcore. Using fluid acrylic only slightly thinned with water, I started to paint the land next to the path and noticed that getting hard edges was going to be difficult. Well, duh. The painting was already starting to “talk” to me.
But I was committed, so I started on the trees with fluid acrylic thinned with a lot more water, since I wanted it to be fairly light to start. I would make it darker with additional layers of paint. By now the painting is fairly “screaming” at me.
What should have been nice smooth edges simply weren’t. Taking a deep breath, I decided to “listen.” I stopped and let it dry.
Background: I paint on raw canvas with thinned fluid acrylic because I like the soft- (in some cases non-) edges, the atmospheric effect. And because I wanted that effect for the leafy part of the trees, I ignored the difficulty I was going to have with the branches and tree trunks, the ground and path, and the shadows.
So this isn’t a made-for-tv story with a happy ending … at least not yet. I confess I kinda like this jagged edges effect and I certainly right now have no idea how I’m going to make this work. I could continue as is with all the edges being jagged, and see how that turns out. Or I can try to “fix” the edges, but that involves matte medium and a lot of work. It’s going to take a lot of thought (what I should have done at the beginning, since I know how unforgiving raw canvas is and how hard it is to correct mistakes).
So I’ll think about it over the weekend and then decide. It certainly would have been better/easier if I’d “listened” to the painting at the beginning.
Why should waterfalls be so hard?
I’ve been fascinated by water for years: water flowing around rocks in a stream, waves and ocean currents, foamy water alongside a boat … and ever since my trip to Victoria Falls in Africa in 2019 … waterfalls. But none of my waterfall paintings are satisfying to me. The effects I want continue to elude me. Why should waterfalls be so hard?
I started with a fairly representational painting of Victoria Falls in 2020:
Next came a bigger painting of Victoria Falls, more abstract, just focusing on the movement of the water itself. Fortunately or unfortunately, I never took a picture of it and it has undergone several iterations since then. It’s still not finished.
Then I decided to test some different techniques in smaller paintings, just to see what might work. In one, I put the rocks down first using a palette knife and molding paste, then added the “water.”
That didn’t quite do it. It wasn’t clear if it were snow or water.
So I tried again, and this time it looks more like Victoria Falls, more powerful, but still not abstracted enough, still not what I wanted.
So I decided to try to really paint a more abstracted waterfall, more like the beautiful ones I saw in Iceland. Having used most of my creativity for the painting itself, I simply called it Falling Water.
This is much better, but still no cigar.
And, of course, the 3rd (but not final) version of my 2020 waterfall painting is still sitting on the rack at the Art Students League waiting for me to finish it. One of these days (months? years?) I’ll know how to do that.
In the meantime, I don’t have the answer to my original question: Why should waterfalls be so hard? (shrug) They just are.