Monday, October 31, 2011

Taking stock... An unlimited series of self-questioning!!

As is customary for me at this time of the year, I like to analyze my works of the previous 12 months in an attempt to find an optimal path to follow moving forward. Here are some take-home messages from this analysis (clockwise from the top left):

  •  My most dramatic work on raw cotton/linen was done with both the palette knife and the brush; the canvas was not obliterated completely thus unveiling the natural texture of raw cotton/linen
  • Glazes and brush strokes on primed canvas are useful to render a blurry effect but I need to get back to more colors now that I understand the principle; brush strokes are difficult to retain on raw canvas as the paint sinks in
  • I like the chalky pastel look obtained when applying color glazes on raw cotton
  • Soot and/or walnut stain can produce perfect black and white renditions on raw cotton that are acceptable as is (coloring them may very well add nothing and even defeat the purpose); a soot/walnut stain underpainting can be useful to avoid a first layer of plastic and allow further staining (the idea is to tone down colors applied subsequently)
  • Glazes on primed canvas produce realistic images that can become more artistic with selective "deconstruction" work 
  • A blurry effect is possible using the brush and the palette knife on coarse cotton (the header for this blog)... but it's an impressionistic approach that is not very differentiating
I will decide on a course of action for next year this week...

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Ultimate fighter XI post-mortem.... Arrangement in pink and grey!

As a last experiment on my previous failure, I went with sort of a reverse "grisaille" by applying black and grey over colors as opposed to the other way around, as old masters used to do...

Funnily enough, this technique could very well have some merit. I'm curious about the impact of a satin varnish on this work.

Note: I felt humoristic this morning, hence the title of this post "winking" at Whistler!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ultimate fighter XI post-mortem.... The glutton for punishment is back!

Not feeling like attempting another subject this week, I decided to learn something from my recent failure...

I applied major surgery to the back and readjusted everything else until I was half satisfied with proportions. I used a black and white photo to better assess improvements. Next step was to attempt "salvage therapy" with colors...

There was a price to pay for not arriving there fast. On the other hand, this one gave me the opportunity to experiment a little... so not all was lost!

Note to self: "The blurry effect I have achieved so far on raw canvas is less painterly than on primed canvas. Raw canvas naturally leads to a foggy blur as paint is absorbed by the canvas. I see an opportunity for 3 types of blur: through paint application (brush strokes, refraction), through wiping out paint and through deconstruction. I wouldn't mind having 3 streams of paintings for a while."

Subnote to self: "May be I should go for a few black and white paintings!"

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ultimate fighter XI final... Cropping my way to some composition!

I seem to be running out of decent compositions for this series, at least as it relates to wrestling positions on the floor. After a few passes, it dawned on me that the elbow on the right was sticking out like a sore thumb...

I elected to curb it somewhat for some improvement! Unfortunately, this composition is also showing too much back for my liking, so I guess this one won't be joining the collection!

For the specific look that I'm now after following my recent paintings, it seems that raw canvas may not fit the bill totally. Pigments need to sit on top of the support... and not sink in! The other aspect is that my new pigments are not as powerful as the ones I routinely use, especially with regard to their staining power. Primed canvas doesn't seem to pose a problem with them but raw canvas is a challenge.

Note to self: "Part of the problem with this painting is that I lost my spontaneity by wanting to apply some sort of formula. Moreover, each time I pussy foot around with a painting, and I don't get what I want fast...results always seem suboptimal."

Subnote to self: "I want to detach myself from my over-dependence on video stills and photographs... I want to move to sketches at least for a part of my future production. This is my challenge for next year!"

Monday, October 24, 2011

Ultimate fighter XI - step II... a bit off balance again!

Being too hasty, I missed an opportunity for ultimate refraction with this second pass...

With the third pass, I'm not sure if I can get as much "patina" and refraction as with primed canvas without relying on an additional transparent layer of gel acting like a glass layer in-between 2 color layers. I'll soon find out. Raw canvas has a definite textural advantage, but it can lead to a chalky pastel look with fewer layers. I'd like to have it both ways, high patina, lots of textures... in three passes flat!

Note: Initially, I felt like "boxing in" the two fighters to create a smothering effect... as a second thought, I decided to leave some space on the right side... to give the two fighters more room to fall on the way side!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Ultimate fighter XI - step I... Back to raw cotton/linen!

I started this one with the intent of trying  to emulate the "new look" that I've developed using primed canvas... but this time using raw canvas, in occurrence raw cotton/linen ...

We'll see how this one goes... I'm curious about the impact on this support. Not taking too much risk, I duct taped a loose piece of canvas on a board for this experiment...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Ultimate fighter X - final... "Fuzziness" is getting clearer!

The last pass allowed some refraction, and I ended up with a slightly different look than the preceding painting partly as a result of using less textural effects from the beginning...

To a certain extent, the smoother surface led to less character. On the other hand, I used more transparency with this one and I like the blurry effect on skin tones.

Note: this canvas is not stretched for now...

I haven't tried the new colors along with my newly developed techniques on raw canvas... so this will be next on my agenda...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ultimate fighter X - step II... testing how far I can go without blue...

As usual for a first step, I introduced a basic color scheme along with some textural effect...

I like the new colors I received from my sister-in-law very much. Although I have plans to complement my color set with a few strategic blues from the same manufacturer, I want to restrict myself for now and replace my usual blues with purples to see how far I can go with this new color scheme. I think I will call this painting: "Getting some elbow room"... in total disregard to the fighter on the receiving end!

Note to self: "Teal blue is a nice complement to orange and red... I have some withdrawal symptoms already! On the other hand, the prospect of exploring something new, creating a new look is too appealing! By using unusual premixed colors for me, I hope to keep myself off-balance and receptive to new developments!"

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ultimate fighter X - step I... Keeping the momentum going... with "the blur"!

I wanted to get to 10 works with this series, so I set the stage for the 10th one this afternoon....

I'd like to follow suit on the previous painting when it comes to creating a blurry rendition...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ultimate fighter IX final ... edging my bet in the pursuit of "fuzziness"!

For some reason, throughout this third pass, I naturally evolved towards the combination of both refraction and brush strokes to obtain the desired blurry effect...

My natural tendency over the last few years has been to indulge in the use of vertical strokes with either the palette knife or the brush. Why fight it! This new development is setting the stage for next year.

Note to self: "I got caught in my own game... brush strokes do matter for me!"

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ultimate fighter IX - step II... Testing multiple layers...

These days, I spend more time outside the studio, trying as much as possible to enjoy the last days of Indian summer in Quebec. I did take the time though to slap another coat of paint on my work in progress...

Not much to write home about... but I'm counting on multiple layers to give me what I want in terms of color nuances and character. Meanwhile, the fellow on the right will be getting progressively larger... as a counterbalance to the originally bulkier fellow on the left!

Note to self: "I don't seem to care anymore about my brush strokes... slapping paint right, left and center... as it goes. Could this be the beginning of truthful art for me!"

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ultimate fighter IX - step I... trying to adapt my raw canvas techniques to primed canvas...

Pursuing this "ultimate fighters" series, I selected this typical confrontational scene this morning to further test the grounds with primed canvas...

Instead of using my usual chimney soot/walnut stain mixture for my underpaintings on raw canvas, I wiped a mixture of raw umber and ivory black on this primed canvas. I want to see if I can build up on what I've learned from the previous painting.

The first color coat led to this fairly visceral version...

Note to self: "Working on primed canvas brings to light what I miss from raw canvas.... and vice versa. I need both!"

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Ultimate fighter VIII final... trying to deepen my understanding of refraction and movement!

With this final pass, it suddenly dawned on me that refraction is much easier to achieve on primed canvas than on raw canvas...

Achieving refraction from one layer to the other depends on everything (paint and medium) not sinking in the fabric. Needless to say, I will need to readjust my methods slightly with raw canvas.

My mission statement stipulates that my aim as an artist is to depict beauty, power and movement using the human form as a basis for expression. At the early stage, 4 years ago, I was attracted by the depiction of female beauty. This year, I really wanted to emphasize power (static power?)... perhaps some sort of an ego trip on my part! With my recent experiments on refraction, I see for the first time an opportunity to depict movement. On thing is for sure, going from raw canvas to primed canvas is like shedding 100 pounds... my paint velocity has dramatically increased!

Update: This is the stretched version below. Ironically, I find the buckled version more interesting... also, from a distance, the first step version had qualities that this one lost along the way... and this is giving me food for thought in terms of future paint application...

Note to self: " I seem to have gobbled up a fair number of styles and methods over the last 4 years... question is: is this finally THE avenue for me? This prospect excites me... at least for now!"

Sub note to self: "Transparency has remained the common thread in my work.... and the one pass painting has never been so close... just like doing watercolors!"

Monday, October 3, 2011

Ultimate fighter VIII - step I... experimenting on... primed canvas!

For a while, I've been thinking about the relevance of toggling back and forth between raw canvas and primed canvas to keep myself challenged and to remain on the path for artistic growth. After a year of using raw canvas, I have reached a pretty good level of comfort with it despite its relative "unfriendliness" as a support. It's a bit like walking on thick molasses but I love the watercolor feel when spreading diluted colors or stain. I went from a mixed staining/painting approach to total staining approach relying on walnut stain/chimney suit underpaintings for tones.

Today, I want to evaluate the impact of my newly developed raw canvas painting techniques on primed canvas. Moreover, my sister in law (an accomplished realistic painter) gave me a set of new acrylics colors from the US not commonly distributed in Canada, and after a few conclusive tests, I am very tempted to give them a try. This ultimate fighter scene in my back burner seems a perfect candidate...

I never thought I'd be using raw umber and raw sienna... but since they are semi-transparent, they fit the bill (my credo is "transparency"). My color selection doesn't have any blues but two purples instead. I decided to leverage this idiosyncrasy to create a different look... so far so good... I'm totally loose!

Note to self: "Ironically, I'm skidding around on this support from lack of resistance (it's like I've been training with weights)... I like the new painterly look and I will seek to replicate it when I go back to raw canvas! I'm after the depiction of movement, something that has been escaping me thus far..."

Subnote to self: "So much for deconstruction from pure realism... I prefer a one step approach!"

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Hot summer day final - The need for a "reality check"!

This final pass became sort of an experiment in tone adjustment...

I didn't divert too much from reality with this one... and this, more often than not, is the case when I paint the "muse"! My desire to report this moment was stronger than my desire to push the limits and experiment... I'm a sucker for souvenirs!

Note to self: "After the last few paintings, it's time to go back to some deconstruction work with pure reality as a starting point. Deep down though, I want to go free style and invent a new reality rather than interpret an existing one."