Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Before the race One - step II... a bit more alla prima painting here!

The second quick pass allowed me to set the mood a little more clearly. I used more white than usual at the early stage to create the dense atmosphere of an overheated stadium...

I still need to resolve the foreground (not sure what will happen to the bent-over guy on the left!) and bring further refinements overall...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Before the race One... my last painting before leaving for the Caribbeans this week!

Here is another 24 X 30 on loose canvas (I'm reserving the 36 X 36 stretched canvases for larger figures)...

I don't feel like doing a lot of pirouettes this week, so a chose a rather simple subject: a runner facing the stadium crowd before the start of the race. Let's hope I can let go with this one until the very end!

At the very least, I managed to zip through the first pass like a bat out of hell...

... so it's a good omen. May Odin be with me!

Next week, I will be in the Caribbeans for 7 days sketching the muse with watercolor pencils... after all, I've got to finish the beach painting series!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

End of race one - final step... a tough race: I lost a runner!

In the end, after the modifications, I decided to draw a finish line instead of cropping the picture. I find interesting that by looking at that line, another focal point, there is a feeling of losing the runner out of the picture...

In the previous version, stamping out the second runner became a matter of emotional rescue for me! After 10 "so so" iterations (I'm a glutton for punishment), I finally gave up... and will sleep much better at night, as a result!

Looking at my current painting process, best results are usually achieved in 3-4 steps. After that, freshness is definitely lost (I'm still a watercolorist in heart). Speed of execution remains pivotal... and this is my take home message here.

Note to self: "As an overachiever, my "I want it bad" attitude seems to have yielded the anticipated results for the most part throughout my life. Ironically, with art, its seems to me that the solution will be to let go instead of wanting or trying harder. It's hitting me big time: I need to bring my Tai Chi principles into my art and dance with the brush... and while I'm at it, I should do that with the art of life as well!"

Thursday, March 26, 2009

End of race one - to be resolved... another case for spontaneous hesitancy!

Filling up large uninteresting areas is a challenge for me... and I don't feel up to the task yet. I used the painting knife quite a bit on this one, so the surface is more interesting as a result.

I also tried to convey the impression of speed by reducing the size of the faster moving lower legs at first (this is observable on video or by whipping the back hand back and forth Bruce Lee style), but it did not seem to work on canvas... especially with the darker background. In the end, I decided to break down the lower legs thus creating an effect of imprecision and forcing the mind to recreate an average complete limb out of the broken pieces. This approach deserves further investigation on my part.

After all this work, I find the second runner in the back out of place: due to the initial poor drawing, I had to do too many iterations on that figure alone so it's now sticking out like a sore thumb. My intent with this painting is to salvage the larger runner, discard the other one, and reduce the size of the painting down to 24 X 30, if need be...

In this more direct painting style, I feel I will have accomplished something when I can live with any mark I make on canvas with no regrets! In other words, I still need to reprogram my mind to accept all imperfections as they come along! This is the only path to the freedom I am after in art.

Note to self: "Based on this experiment, I realize that nothing beats the impact of the large figure or any large close-up for that matter painted in almost abstract fashion but totally figurative from a distance. The more I think about it, the more I believe this should be my artistic viewpoint. John Singer Sargent was never a painter of vistas... and his art beyond portraiture is phenomenal , especially the watercolors. He would plant his easel anywhere and start painting what was in front of him regardless!"

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

End of race one - close to final step... outside my comfort zone but still in the race for good or for bad!

With this painting, I easily worked the background area by applying thicker paint with brushes and a painting knife. On the other hand, obtaining what I wanted for the still relatively thin figures led to a rather unspontaneous application of paint especially where there was a need for anatomical corrections. Spontaneity is not a problem with large figures, so it will require some "getting used to" on my part if I want to do more complex scenes in the future.

Tomorrow, in broad daylight, I will recheck the whole surface and implement surgical corrections wherever needed...

Note: If I were to give a real name to that painting it would be: "Outclassed"... for evident reasons!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

End of race one... it's a start, I think!

Before starting, I firmed up the underpainting a bit to take advantage of the reddish hue in the application of subsequent layers...

The next step was to quickly establish the foundation for somewhat of a viable color scheme...

I gave it another go this afternoon to get closer to where I want to be before the final pass...

I need to go for more nuances and contrasts before I call it quit. Let's hope I don't fall flat on my face before the very end of this race!

Note: I renamed this scene "end of race" as opposed to "mid race" as the leader of the race already has both his arms down.

Monday, March 23, 2009

End of race one... can I make this work?

Looking at my previous works, I seem to have a need to explore my limited capabilities for illustration but at the same time, I want to cultivate more abstraction in my work... sort of a contradiction in terms. I will keep pushing in the latter direction because I feel that a blend of figuration and abstraction may be a path to freedom of expression for me.

Here is another one of those abbreviated scene lifted from a video screen shot and reworked in black and white...

... but this time around, I would like to go with a 30 X 30 canvas... and see once and for all if I can get away with so little information (no other reference materials) and still make it look real.

Being on shaky grounds (as usual!), I used a loose piece of canvas once again to establish the foundation for this new piece...

I would like more freedom in my brush strokes with this one...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Escape one - final step...first self-portrait: one chin short of "losing face"!

On a more serious note, as I found no opportunity to do white males in the 100 m series (I feel African American and Caribbean physiques are the best ones to communicate power and speed), I decided to do this "escape" series to recuperate some of my own pictures with graphic potential...

I have a few more in mind... but that will be the extent of this series... of a dubious nature!

In terms of style, I seem to be gravitating towards semi abstract or abstract brush marks within the confines of the body - my subject matter for now - working in fairly large formats. Following this logic, smaller figures (e.g., in the portrayal of many runners) should be at least semi abstract... and that's my challenge in the next five paintings on the 100 meter dash.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Escape one - close to final... giving a new meaning to so called kitsch art!

Another wave will ensure an even surface/technical quality throughout... and bring further anatomical corrections where needed...

In this version, I deleted the hole on the wall and replaced it by the light beam of a flashlight: this guy may not make it!

As far as self portraiture goes, the chin is about as far as I'm gonna go! The other day, I met an elderly Greek from Thessaloniki, a place I visited 3 years ago, and the first comment he made was that I looked Russian! I'm not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing, but it confirms that the portrayal of my face may not be the ultimate when it comes to social redeeming value!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Escape one - second wave... not the least serious but having fun!

Still searching the night light, I graduate slowly towards a color scheme reflecting some form of direct artificial light... to go along with this weird scene. Bringing nuances in the dark areas and trimming the smoke column (I got carried away!) are called for at this stage...

An extra hour this afternoon led me to where I want to be for some real serious work. Colors look more "natural" - a matter of speaking! - but contrast was lost. The paint is still spread thin at this stage allowing me to make further corrections. I need to get in the thick of it now!

I set a fire behind the wall before leaving this piece!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Escape one - first steps... hope this "piece of art" will be liberating!

Evidently, I am using the word "art" loosely here!
In this first step, I tried to imagine a plausible scene (broken wall, smoke, barbwire...).

For the color scheme, I started with a specific one in mind but ended up with blue/purple and red/orange/yellow...

Hopefully, this will carry the day... or the night should I say!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Taking a break from the 100 m series... prison break!

Not knowing what direction to take with the rest of the 100 m series, for now, I've decided to take one of my reference pictures (actually myself as a model) to branch out into another type of runner's series. I will call this one "the escape"... sort of how I feel about my recent move to leave the (crumbling?) business world behind to regain my freedom and dedicate more time to art.

I could try an evening lighting for this one... we'll see... this is totally experimental... and just for laughs! This subject still allows me to focus on the body, which is in line with my current developmental objectives.

With the 100 m series, there is an opportunity to go more abstract in the rendering of runners at full speed focusing only on what is essential. This means that the next five of the 100 m series will look quite different in relation to the first five... if I go in that direction.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mid race one - step IV... I stopped before the finish line... and finished ahead!

As I do with most of my paintings, I left this one relatively unfinished in certain areas... but much more than what I am accustomed to... perhaps, because I benefited from some professional advice :))

There is even bare canvas in certain areas and, in others, I did not bother restating certain passages. This, conceptually, represents a quantum leap for me considering that I used to paint birds in full details, feather by feather! Back in 1998, after a 15 year hiatus from painting, I started to reprogram myself to accept more freedom of expression in my watercolors. Its been almost 2 years with acrylics and I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel... i.e., getting into the watercolor groove and experiencing a certain level of fluidity despite the use of pasty opaque colors.

With this last series, I hope to engage the viewer a little more by not clearly stating every components of a painting so that the ensemble only really makes sense from a distance (working in larger formats will help). In other words, I am after a certain abstract quality in close up views. At the same time, I also want to viewer to feel as if my paintings have been put together with a sense of urgency in an attempt to capture the fleeting moment.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mid race one - step III... need some more legwork to get there!

After this third wave of changes, I think I can bring this painting to an acceptable level of completion (for me!) by enhancing contrasts on the figure to bring it forward... and by messing up the background further!

I skipped painting yesterday to attend a vernissage in Montreal. It was the work from an abstract painter who uses dry paint and calligraphic marks on canvas to express herself. I piggybacked a little on that process for the background... only difference: I used an underpainting to come up with some abstract patterns... perhaps, if I splatter more paint on it, it will look more controlled!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Mid race one - step II... a different perspective, from the waist down, but still in the race!

I tried to nail the general color scheme in this quick second pass avoiding, at the early stage, the counterproductive messy approach of my previous paintings from this series... so far so good.

An extra hour allowed me to refine the color scheme and build the platform for the final sprint to the finish line...

After a series of awkward "construction/deconstruction" exercises with my recent paintings, I seem to be back to my usual cruising speed slapping paint, gel, gel & paint in whatever order they come out... focusing on the "what" rather than the "how"... reacting to "what is" in front of me, moment by moment with no preconceived ideas about outcome (except perhaps that I need to clip at least one of those fingers!). At this accelerated evolutionary rate, I think I can now become an artist within 10 years! Need to revise my profile!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Mid race one - step I... taking a breather with a no brainer!

My plan is to do 10 paintings in this "100 meter dash" series. Before graduating to five 36 X 36 stretched canvases currently in storage, I decided to take a rest and complete the first five of the series with this rather simple subject using another piece of unstretched canvas. I will probably mount these five paintings on foam boards with temporary display frames for future exhibitions ...

The painting above is perhaps a good opportunity to use interesting colors and abstract patterns. It's also an opportunity to streamline my painting process by avoiding counterproductive steps while retaining the surface quality I am after in this series.

An interesting observation: lately, I have been emphasizing textures in my work using heavier bodied paint to create more interesting surfaces. Ironically, I find that my latest paintings are no more powerful than some of the earlier ones done in one third the time using pure transparent pigments, some grayed colors, and black and white. With these earlier works, textures were created separately with acrylic gel before applying paint. A few months ago, I had a chance to coach my wife in the use of transparent acrylic washes over canvases precoated with modeling paste to obtain impressive textures. Results were amazing. In the completion of this series, I have an opportunity, going back to stretched canvas, to experiment with even heavier textures... without using a ton of paint...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Racing start two - step VI... a monument raised to unspontaneous spontaneity!

The painting process for this painting was the antithesis of freedom in art, a prime objective of mine.

Nonetheless, it gave me more than ever a taste for that freedom...

Now back to the third painting from this series, which at this stage looks like a trophy from my short-lived athletic career, 30 years ago! Got to inject some pizazz in that sleeper of a background... results can be viewed in the slide show on the right (still fairly tamed but a little better in my view).

Note to self: " Where is freedom in art?... Between watery dripping paint and opaque impasto paint? Between pure colors and mixed colors? Between smooth transitions and calligraphic brush strokes? Between systematic painting and loose style painting? Between pure technique and painting as if writing? Between working on paper and working on canvas? Between total abandon and full control? Between formula painting and beginner's mind painting? Between intuitive and cerebral painting? Between abstraction and figuration? Between a focus on process and a focus on the end result? Between planning and improvisation? Between glazing and alla prima painting? ... I suspect freedom is taking whatever avenue it takes to to illustrate one's vision from the moment the brush hits the canvas with no preoccupation with style, and with the spirit of no-mind to borrow from Zen philosophy!"

Friday, March 6, 2009

Racing start two - step V... I seem to be getting somewhere, I think!

Before starting to work on the figure, I reworked the background a bit and replaced the pale purple red by a lavender color.

My next step is to integrate the figure a little better in this environment by reworking shadows and highlights...

Note to self: " On the basis of this experiment, I feel compelled to rework the boring background from the previous painting. I will execute myself after this one... hopefully not literally!"

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Racing start Two - step IV... stuck in the mud for a while at the start!

The transparent background approach had to be discarded... from lack of technique (should have aimed for this approach right from the beginning).

Based on the above step this morning, I saw an opportunity perhaps to match the purple blues and purple reds from the background with the oranges and yellows from the figure (roughly complementary colors in the Munsell color system):

I used more black than usual at the early stage with this color scheme and it seems that I spent the greater part of my creative process trying to get out of the mud. More refinements of the figure, especially in the dark areas will be necessary. The background was done with "no method in the madness"... and the color scheme doesn't seem to work from lack of warm colors in the highlights... I think!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Racing start Two - step III... still roughing it out!

An 1 1/2 hour of frantic work (always relatively out of control!) got me to a stage where I can start to paint for real.

I will pursue with transparent colors on the background to retain some of the red... so I better figure out where I am going pronto! The night should help!

Note to self: "I was a bit more prudent with the previous background being afraid to detract from the figure. This is not a problem this time around... it would be a pity not to go loose style with more nuances!"

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Racing start two -step II... an underpainting à la va comme je te pousse!

Not having a lot of time to paint, but wanting to make a dent, I spread a reddish violet color across the whole canvas with a painting knife. My intent is also to develop a textured surface before any further color applications.

I am starting to see the figure more clearly... along with potential viable abstract patterns. Let's hope I don't spoil the picture!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Racing start Two - step I... the return of the alien!

Here is a real opportunity to go abstract in a chiaroscuro environment.

Let's hope I will have an easier time than painting the red box in the previous painting, which took 10 coats of paint including a white "control-alt delete" layer in-between !

Racing start one- final pass... at last!

After multiple trials and errors, I finally settled for this version...

I introduced another diagonal with the red box to create a seesaw effect with the other diagonals in the lower part of the picture. I also reemphasized the starting block, so that it becomes a more obvious starting point to investigate the figure...