Sunday, October 26, 2008

Imagination & Execution

This past week I reread the book Art & Fear. I was first introduced to this wise little tome over ten years ago. Its one of those books that you can reread again and again, finding new and deeper insights each time. This time was no exception. The passages that seemed particularly apt had to do with what the authors call the "correspondence between imagination and execution"- that is, the place where your work actually gets made. The idea is that at the beginning the work can be whatever you can imagine but as it progresses- as you actually begin to make it- the possibilities narrow with each successive brushstroke, until at the end only a very narrow range of choices remain to complete the work. It is then its own thing, separate and apart from the world and what inspired it. In other words, as Annie Dillard (paraphrasing Paul Klee) wrote:

The painter...does not fit the paints to the world. He most certainly does not fit the world to himself. He fits himself to the paint. The self is the servant who bears the paintbox and its inherited contents.
I have read those words a dozen times over many years and have only just begun to understand what they mean. I had this ridiculous notion that I was in control!

This past week I've been working on the large painting-the underpainting is posted here. This first image is one glaze over the foreground and trees and the sky laid in with opaque paint.

Once the sky was laid in, I began to adjust the values and color temperature. It gets tricky here because you have to remember that each successive glaze will darken that portion of the panting. In this next image, I've put several more glaze layers on the foreground and the distant trees, repainted a portion of the sky, and adjusted the distant tree shapes and color harmony throughout.

So far, I've done very little to the large trees in the foreground and nothing to the small piece of water in the very front. And the sky will need repainting again. There are zillions of little adjustments to edges and shapes and color needed everywhere now-each needing to be fitted to what came before-to the paint.


Linda Blondheim said...

I had to laugh at your notion of being in control. Enjoyed this interesting post.

Deborah Paris said...

Thanks Linda. Yes, wasn't that silly of me!

Janelle Goodwin said...

I'm going get myself a copy of Art & Fear. I was wondering why I felt so out of control while painting sometimes. Your work is truly inspiring.

Pamela Robinson said...

I'm so glad you posted your work in stages. I am trying to learn this technique and sooo don't have it yet! Your work is beautiful and truly inspiring.

Deborah Paris said...

Thanks Janelle. Its a great little book-chock full of really helpful stuff. Thanks for visiting!

Hi Pamela. Thanks very much. I am glad you enjoyed it. There are some earlier posts on technique and palette you might find helpful, under the labels "indirect painting method" and "glazing". Thanks for stopping by!.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating stuff!
Thanks for the link to more about glazing.
I understand the concept of glazing in watercolour (or at least think I do….laughing….or maybe I just think I am in control of it), but the odd occasions that I have tried glazing with oil it has been a disaster! Once again, maybe I was trying to hard to be in control.

Deborah Paris said...

Hi Maggie. I didn't know a thing about glazing until about a year and a half ago and really just sort of figured it out by trial and error. I don't work in watercolor so I can't really compare the two, but to glaze with oil, you need to use a glazing medium (rather than just turp) and be sure to let it dry completely before trying to paint over it. Also sometimes you need to apply a little medium to the surface after it dries to bring it back to the correct color and value. Hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your response on my question about glazing. Linda Blondheim talks about glazing on her Blog today and I have suggested that it might be of interest to many of her followers to do a series of Blogs on glazing in oil and acrylic…(if she has the time, of course!) Do you make your own glazing medium for oil glazing?

Deborah Paris said...

Hi Maggie. I use Liquin which is an alkyd based medium. I use it as a regular painting medium and also for glazing. I have quite a few posts about glazing back in the archives- if you look under tags for glazing,glazes and indirect painting method you should find the ones where I talk about the technique. My use of glazing is a bit different than many oil painters in that I do a transparent underpainting then glaze over that, leaving large portions of the piece in transparent passages.

Marian Fortunati said...

What a fascinating post... I enjoyed also, the stages you've posted and will be interested to see how it changes as you finish. It is beautiful in every stage!

I too will have to look for that book. Although I am so very aware that I am not in control... it's comforting to know I'm walking with lots of company!