Friday, May 5, 2017

Still Life

This painting came from this drawing: 

Painting from a drawing offers freedom and complexity at the same time. Painting from a photograph offers so much detail that you have everything but the kitchen sink, usually, when you hold a photograph in your hand. A photo doesn't teach anyone when to say 'no', quite the opposite---it seems to say "Paint all of me", whereas a drawing has almost nothing in it, relatively speaking---a few lines. It represents something to the person who drew it.  As the photo mutely asks you to neglect its details at your own peril, the drawing mutely asks you, "What do you see when you look at me?" 

Working from a drawing usually implies the gestation of an idea in one's mind, as opposed to the basic record of a  visual that one wants to paint straightaway. Since a drawing gives you much less to work with than a photo, as source material, one finds this shortage of information is a blessing in disguise, as it forces you to use the drawing as a tool, as part of the creative process, rather than having a photo which tempts one to copy it. I wonder now if photographs tend to reinforce 'subject' throughout the process, whereas drawings introduce and reinforce  'idea'. Regardless, it takes a strict person who can work with photographs and keep them as a tool, not relying on them as the mainstay of their process. Creating a drawing to paint from is something everyone should try and practice. Like skiing or rowing, it exercises muscles you didn't know you had. 

Since photographs are easier to come up with than a drawing, their use is ubiquitous, but the drawback is that the unfeeling eye of the camera captures everything with equanimity, the interesting parts and dull parts alike, and this very often slips the artist onto a trajectory of straight replication. Understandable.  This is where a drawing----like a shopping cart with a stubborn wheel---veers  to the other side of creativity and takes you with it. Unless your drawing is photographic in its detail, your emotional eye and hand will have drawn things with a most definite imbalance, capturing those details and gesture which mean something to you and simply ignoring---or disguising---those parts that leave you cold. This focus and manipulation is going be unpredictable with everyone because it is the eye of the individual that is having the final say. 

Painting from a photograph does offer you the opportunity to invent parts of your painting and insert your personal self into the final product, the same as a drawing does---but it's just so easy not to that lots of people forget that part. The photo has so much that you often feel you must put it all in there, or at least 1/2.   Painting from your drawing, on the other hand,  means you are being sparked from the very beginning by something that remains nearly ephemeral ; likewise, you are forced to invent certain parts,  so without really intending it your own free will is dominant throughout----your own free will has become, in fact, the 'subject' of the finished work. For better and for worse. You have become an interpreter, not a human camera. You are putting imagery through the filter of yourself. 

In essence, while I don't see anything wrong with working from photographs  it is something to lament when the same artists who paint from photos see no sense in painting from their own drawings. That is all I'm saying here. I know how much it's helped me. 

  Regarding the painting above, some changes from the drawing were made, and I'm about to do it again with the addition of a bowl of figs. 

I'll post the painting when it's done. 

 The weather today was cool and gray, then sunny in the afternoon. Now as the sun is going down it has gotten incredibly warm, it's strange how that happens just because of the angle of the sun. All day it was pleasant, then at late afternoon it gets so hot. 

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