Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Moving to the next painting... but still trying to digest my recent artistic elucubrations!

The Yoga instructor that I used as a model is interested in seeing the results of my efforts in person... so, I'm preparing a mini exhibition for her...

As I look at this production, it's becoming clearer in my mind that I want to strive for a better balance in the integration of all the painting approaches that I've used so far. When it comes to my use of colors, I would like to introduce areas of tranquility to balance high intensity areas. In terms of rendition, I would like some areas to be blurry or undefined, others to be sharply in focus. In a way, I'm no longer satisfied in constructing half decent replicas of human forms; I now want to deconstruct partially these forms. In terms of textures, I would like certain areas to be highly textured, others to be much smoother or even exposing bare canvas. Finally, with regard to my use of photographs, I would like them to be a departure point, not an end point!

This suggests a totally new way of working. I want to start a new painting... but I don't know where to start!

Note to self: "Exploration in my case seems to lead to exaggerations in a given direction... after a while I feel the need to backtrack a little in an attempt to find a better balance... or is it just to avoid boredom. If it's the latter, that could be dangerous... some artists spend a lifetime exploring the interactions between black and lemon yellow!"

Update: By the way, the feedback from the Yoga instructor on this series that she inspired was very positive... and, needless to say, this is giving me more fuel to keep plugging away! Merci Geneviève!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Revamping the studio... letting go of the past, embracing the future!

I need to repaint the studio, something that is long overdue...

It's an opportunity to get rid of any business relics from my past corporate life including anything that does not relate directly to painting per se (the computer desk on the left will go and will be replaced by a tray on wheels). Although my future as an artist is on shaky grounds (I don't feel I'm ready yet for galleries), I try to sweep away any negative thoughts that cross my mind, focusing instead on my strategy for the next painting! Pretty soon, I'll be back to loose canvas producing experimental art that I have no intention to sell, unless of course there are buyers!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Yoga pose X... the next one in the line up... another one out on a limb (pun), including myself (no pun)!

I think this enigmatic view point has potential...

... as it almost reads like a human calligraphic mark.

Having reflected upon my art over the last few weeks (as I usually do at the beginning of a new year), I'm left with the idea that there is no real expressionism without using an "alla prima" approach to the painting process. This scares the control freak that resides within me... but I have to give it a shot!

On another train of thought, I just realized that with this series, my use of saturated colors has gradually increased to such an extent that I'm now shouting my impressions at people (last painting in particular)...

... something akin to using capital letters in an e-mail or raising the volume to 11! Part of this stems from my own need to counterbalance the lack of sun these days. The other part derives from my unconscious need to be louder than most paintings I see in prestigious Montreal galleries (joke)! Representing the Zen-like aspects of Yoga with loud colors may have some merit from an artistic standpoint... as a figure of style... sort of like calling a 6 footer "shorty". I think it's time to put my ego in a jar... and reach for that jar of ivory black that has been carrying dust over the last 3-4 months. After all, I thought I had developed a very personal color scheme with my use of dirty colors... sort of like looking at the world with California shades! As I swing back though, I want to retain some of the qualities of my recent works.

In a nutshell, based on my previous patterns, I see an opportunity in contrasting attenuated and fully saturated colors, painting more directly in less layers, applying thick paint with a palette knife and moving it around with a brush, letting textures take care of themselves as opposed to blatantly developing them in an exaggerated fashion.

Note to self: "As I'm closing the gap to 3 years of concentrated efforts on acrylics (by August 2010), there's a danger of my getting demoralized as things are not moving as fast as I anticipated (I keep raising the bar!). Moreover, most people prefer my earlier works which are slowly selling out! This is more a function of subject matter though and my last series or at least part of it is likely to be more popular (the test will be at my fall exhibition). I think it's time to get the kid back, the non conformist, the clown. I think it's time to let go and have some fun! This art thing can't be that serious!"

Sub-note to self: "I'm still searching... yet I feel it's important to remain true to my original painting principles!"

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Yoga pose IX - final step... what next?

I managed to finish this one with restraint...

Each time I get involved in a new process, I feel like I'm doing "arts & crafts" and not painting... simply because I get engulfed in the process more than in the act of painting. Up to now, I have developed enough of an armamentarium to face some of the challenges of acrylic painting and even pretend that I'm an artist (I'm not sure if I ever will be one!). At this very moment, I feel like throwing all that away (figuratively, of course, since the techniques that I've learned are now part of me) and just respond to any new subject, simply expressing my feelings about it in paint the best I can... with no preconceived ideas about method or technique...

Note to self: "When competing in any combat sport, there is no pre-planned way of dealing with any opponent's attack. This is done with the spirit of "mind like water" responding with the appropriate technique to any moves coming from the opponent. I'd like to approach my future works in the same spirit!"

Sub-note to self: "I think I'm trying to tell myself that if it's expressionism that I want, I should go all the way or at least try!"

Note: I capitalized on the presence of the sun to update the photo. Colors are more accurate. I'm having a hard time avoiding reflected light on textured surfaces.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Yoga pose IX - step II... pitted against the decorative power of white walls... and unsure of the winner!

I tried to retain brush marks as much as I could during this second pass...

... with some difficulty...

I still have a hard time controlling granular backgrounds and making some sense out of them. I think I need to persist and not be afraid of mixing different techniques to get the look I want.

Some adjustments on this painting are called for before calling it quit...

Note to self: "Retaining brush strokes with thick paint "sans repentir" is something I don't have down path yet. If I manage to pull this off one day, my style will experience a quantum leap in freshness and expressiveness."

Sub-note to self: "There is no two ways about it. I need to get back to strong under-paintings and calligraphic second layers applied in the spirit of final layers!"

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Yoga pose IX - step I... going for alla prima... now I'm the one on the block!

With this one I decided to apply the first few layers alla prima style not necessarily waiting for each layer to fully dry, as an experiment...

I still want transparent passages to show through here and there, but while keeping a painterly feel throughout. To achieve this effect, I'm looking at using both the palette knife and the brush making sure to leave their respective marks whenever I can...

Note to self: "If worst comes to worst, I can always revert back to my old ways... but that would be a pity!"

Monday, January 18, 2010

Yoga pose IX ... the next one on the block....

This next one is perhaps an opportunity to loosen up in the rendering of the body since there's no facial features prompting me to execute a near portrait...

A tighter rendition of figures in my previous paintings may have contributed to a better contrast against my somewhat abstracted backgrounds. On the other hand, it would be nice to have more blatant color variations in the figures themselves for more of a painterly approach throughout. For some reason, I have a blockage in that area...

There is no sun these days and this affects my motivation to paint. The next painting does not stem from my wanting to paint... but rather from my wanting to do better than the previous one. For now "better" means "painting with more freedom"... in other words, I want to focus on the journey rather than the destination since the journey is the destination (Dan Eldon, see my favourite links)!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Yoga pose VIII - final step... I'm left craving for more!

This one represents my first real attempt at integrating transparency and opacity throughout while building textures that remain an integral part of the painting process...

My last two and a half years using acrylics have been a fairly slow progression towards developing a more expressive style of painting and achieving more artistic freedom. I still have some ways to go... but there may be some light at the end of the tunnel!

Since I left my marketing career to concentrate on art, I'm no longer in a bubble... and have become much more sensitive to what's going on in the world. It has become hard at times to stare at the face of the world, and the recent cataclysm in Haiti is particularly difficult to absorb let alone comprehend. The act of painting appears futile all of a sudden...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Yoga pose VIII - close to final... distancing myself from what I've done before... with hesitancy!

Although I remain true to my original painting principles with my last 2 paintings, they part enough from the first lot (there is more transparency throughout) that they raise the following question: "should I pursue in that vein?".

It's always a dilemma for me to chose between the security of what I know and the insecurity of what I don't know, the unknown. I always end up choosing the latter though... may be because I'm a glutton for punishment!

The painting on the right (Yoga pose VIII) requires a few minor adjustments here and there...

Note to self: "I wanted to express unequivocal beauty with the last 2 paintings using more or less the same techniques that I used to create the ones before. It seems possible. Deep down though, I really like high impact paintings that put people off balance a little... even if this means selling less, or not selling at all!"

Sub-note to self: "I'm starting to believe that developing a unique point of view is as important as developing a unique technique..."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Yoga pose VIII - step II... Still in the mood to experiment, I guess!

Using the same technique as the previous painting (palette knife and brush), I proceeded with a different color scheme remaining more preoccupied with applying paint than rendering the model...

The challenge remains the same, i.e., transitioning opaque and transparent color passages seamlessly... and finding some movement in the background... and make some sense out of its patterns! Looks like she's gonna be doing Yoga in a garden...

Note to self: "Color separation (not over-blending colors) is an objective of mine, but at the same time, I want to maintain an overall monochromatic feel... can I have both? I guess it's a question of degree."

Sub-note to self: "I need to find a way to recover transparency, if need be... otherwise, I'm in the world to hurt!"

Monday, January 11, 2010

Yoga pose VIII - step I... the usual textural mess!

Committed to some form of textures, I went at it with both the palette knife and the brush in an attempt to create a slightly different ground....

... to see what will happen with subsequent layers! Midstream, I decided to leave more breathing space in this composition to accentuate the elevation of the body and avoid a "boxed in" look , a painful decision that had a domino effect on my design!

Note to self: "Entering the realm of impasto painting with the brush... sooner or later, I'll run out of experiments to do... at least the ones that relate to paint manipulation and application! More and more, it's gonna be paint for the sake of paint, the subject will become secondary!"

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Winter Olympics 2010... another opportunity to depict power and speed!

As I'm thinking about movement within paint (previous post), and as we're closing the gap to the upcoming winter Olympics, I found a replacement for 100 meter dash runners!

This will be my next series indeed (probably 5 paintings)!

Meanwhile, this is the next one on the block for the Yoga series...

May be I should go for golden earth tones for a change...

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Yoga pose VII - final... at the crossroad of something!

Here is one of those paintings that parts enough from previous ones to raise the question: where I am going from now?

I am attracted to the "monolithic block" presence of my previous paintings, a result of the close up views, the movement in the compositions and the large nuanced color areas (multiple layers of semi transparent colors were applied using the palette knife and the brush in succession) . This one has more vibrations in the paint itself creating a different type of movement due to my simultaneous use of the palette knife and the brush (textures were created with the brush by dragging thick paint previously applied with a palette knife in selected areas).

It's this notion of imprecision that is now haunting me.... the possibility of rendering vibrating, pulsating bodies... I can't wait for the next painting!

Meanwhile in the living room...

... thank God the sun is back!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Yoga pose VII - step IV... trying to find my feminine side... if any!

For this one, I decided, on the spur of the moment, to bring back a lime background that I had discarded in a previous painting thinking it would not be impactful enough ...

At some point in time, I started using both the palette knife and the brush simultaneously... with interesting results that beg for further exploration on my part (my tendency was to use them separately before).

I'll let this one simmer in my mind for the rest of the day before making the odd corrections and adjustments here and there...

Note to self: "I was afraid that this one would be engulfed by the other ones due to the weaker color scheme... I think high contrasts compensated somehow. I started this series like a lion... and although I don't want to finish it like a mouse... I need to leave myself some space for experimentation and growth!"

Sub-note to self: "I'm starting to believe that simple shapes combined with large color masses and less details translate into more visual impact... although I don't find the painting above to be a total write off. As a matter of fact, it introduces for me the notion of imprecision, the power of movement as opposed to the power of what is static. I want both!"

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Yoga pose VII - step III... trying to replace power with mystery... I feel powerless!

My painting process these days is mired with uncertainty... and I seem to be going by 30 minute to one hour spurts... with half days in between...

With this one, I'm trying to show process with either the brush or the palette knife. Can I make a strong statement with pink? I have no choice but to opt for the depiction of the ethereal and the mysterious. As usual, I'm not sure if I can deliver the goods!

Note to self: "I know what you want: half finished, no concern with technique, pure expression, yet pure figuration. So, all I have to do is to go for it... easier said than done!"

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Yoga pose VII - step II ... all of a sudden wanting to "move paint around" with the brush!

An additional coat of satin varnish and I'm done with the first 6 of the Yoga series (I've already applied a coat of gloss varnish)...

This is my first experience in varnishing highly textured works. So far, I've been using regular permanent acrylic varnishes... but I have a feeling I'll be switching to archival oil varnishes sooner then later...

For the next 6, I 'd like to part from the red chiaroscuro color scheme and experiment a little. I learned that textures and sweeps of the palette knife could communicate a fair amount of palpable emotions as long as the rational part of the brains does not get involved too much (it's the difficult part for me!). However, my overly prudent approach has prevented me from using a similar approach with the brush. It has to do with my tendency to second guess my brush strokes (something I have never done with watercolors or Chinese black ink since each mark is definitive). After my heavy use of the palette knife in this series so far, I'm getting cocky... and I believe it's time for me to tackle that demon.

This quick second step was done with this in mind. I have a general mood in mind for this painting, but it may I may end up somewhere else...

It suddenly dawn on me that a primary objective of mine is to "move paint around" with whatever tool at my disposal, both to communicate my emotions but also to make the process behind my paintings very apparent to the observer (the observer becomes to painter!). My security blanket: the degree of perfection will be dictated by the number of layers (ideally, the lesser the better).

Note to self: "I seem to want to use the same prop as one of my previous paintings (dark area on the right). If somebody asks me the reason why, I'll say it represent emptiness, the meditative mind..."

Sub-note to self: "For the first time, I feel I'm making concrete steps to evolve from image maker to painter... to start using paint for its own sake!"

Monday, January 4, 2010

Yoga pose VII - step I... can I use the same pictorial language... and just unequivocally express beauty?

I realize that my Yoga series up to now can solicit strong and surprisingly diverse emotional responses from people exposed to it, especially from the non-initiated in the practice of Yoga or those belonging to younger generations and having been exposed to the strong pictorial language of video games (the Gothic, the dark, etc...). I find that a bit scary, but at the same time, I enjoy the kind of contradictory responses that I've been getting so far (sure beats indifference!). I'm naturally attracted to the mystical aspect of Yoga (I chose to practice Tai Chi because of my martial arts background) and this is what I've been communicating so far... it seems. I now see an opportunity to communicate other aspects of Yoga in the completion of the series. This pose is meant to be a step in this new direction...

I'd like to convey beauty of lines, softness and calmness.... using the same techniques that I've recently developed...

Note to self: "People asking me to rotate my paintings (I could put an arrow sticker in the back of my future paintings!) or searching for the position of missing portions of limbs is a new thing for me... but as I'm writing these lines, I've already adjusted... I think!"

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Two and a half years of concentrated work and feeling the need to take stock... for the nth time!

I decided to adopt the way of the artist in the fall of 2007... and go all the way once and for all. I've been experimenting different techniques with acrylics up to now and, more than ever, I feel the need to branch out! Expressing beauty is important to me... but at the same time I'm attracted to the expression of power... sort of a need to shock a little and destabilize: I guess every piece of art is an auto portrait... and I've been known to be a "piece of art" myself at times!

Feedback from people is important and I have used every opportunity to obtain it at exhibitions or through soliciting opinions directly from friends or family members. This has been extremely useful to me. At times, I've seen myself trying to measure approval rates by analyzing facial twitches or other manifestations of body language (not everybody is an art lover or a lover of my art)! At other times, after a spontaneous comment, I rushed back to my studio to make necessary adjustments, thanking the person that volunteered it on the spot or shortly thereafter! I take this opportunity to thank everybody who contributed in this way.

In my continuous saga to progress as an artist, given the style (you may pronounce "shtyle"!) that I'm developing, my subjects and my way of seeing, there is a number of things that I still have to wrestle with in 2010:
  • When working in series, certain paintings fit it perfectly within the ensemble that tells a coherent story but, by the same token, they can be totally misinterpreted or even confusing to the observer when taken out of context. I want to sell individual paintings, not series! Is ambiguity a trait that I should cultivate regardless?
  • Should I charge double if my paintings can have two interpretations (joke)?
  • Can the expression of raw power and beauty coexist in the same painting or is it just a matter of choosing one or the other for any given painting. Many powerful contemporary artists don't depict beauty, is this what I want?
  • People's backgrounds and age brackets can determine the way a painting is interpreted. In my most recent series on Yoga, I found out to my surprise that the pictorial vocabulary, the cropping and colors that I used could lead to my art being viewed as "dark art" when taken out of context, which is not necessarily a bad thing given current trends... but is this what I want?
  • The more I delve into contemporary art (my attraction) the more I distance myself from art lovers at large... do I want to end up in a museum (not likely anyway!) or do I want to be in people's homes? Can I survive or endure as an "acquired taste"?
  • Even if I can develop an acceptable pictorial vocabulary, this does not negate the need to make coherent artistic statements that are in line with what I want to communicate, even if it's ambiguity!
  • Should I just proceed with the task at hand and not consider any of the above. i.e., just paint?
So, it's with a little apprehension that I start 2010!

Note to self: "I think it's time to introduce lively colors!"