Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Many Highs In Art

So I won't show you the painting, but here it is on the easel
First, quick update on my whereabouts for the last two days. Sunday: it seems all I could do is sleep. Nap, nap, nap. Yesterday, I went back to Kidwell Farm/Frying Pan Park to paint a cow and a pink tractor. Out there, I thought my day's efforts were better than they seemed back at home ... so I didn't have the heart or energy to post them. I could fix them, but I'm leaving them as is for now as a learning tool. The principle problem with them is in paint application -- working with slippier surfaces and getting the right areas thick or thin.

I'm preparing for a couple of plein air events with the first coming up this Saturday, September 3 in Herndon, VA. Get more info about the event and wet paint sale immediately following on ArtSpace Herndon's web site (info on the painting competition and info on Paint Herndon 2011). I will be out practicing this afternoon somewhere around town, picking out interesting spots and probably employing some new and different techniques to tackle this bear of painting outdoors. (I did this ... at the Water Mine Park at Lake Fairfax ... and it is still a learning process vs. ta-da! moment.)

The Many Highs In Art-Making
I've been thinking/reading about this topic lately. I've talked to people (non-artists) who are amazed at my patience in consistently painting. They think they couldn't/wouldn't want to paint for hours and hours. Yet, you talk to painters (or other artists) and they will tell you they never want to stop (it almost hurts to stop) and that time absolutely flies. I can't tell you how many times I've been in the studio (or painting elsewhere with others) that someone blurts out the time and we're all, jaws dropped, in disbelief.  We forget about eating, taking bathroom breaks, drinking water, running errands, other necessities and chores. So it's not patience I have. I love the feeling that comes with holding that paintbrush and watching something happen rather magically.

The High of Working from Life
What I've been noticing, in myself and others, is that there is an inherent adrenaline rush in working from life -- whether it's painting a live person in front of you, a naturally wilting and rotting still life, or chasing the light and fending off wind and bugs outdoors. Stick me in front of a photo and there isn't the race of the clock and falling sunshine, the conversations and rhythms of it all. I try to recreate a moment and passage of time ... by ignoring the photo and replaying the scene in my head. I actually succeed (the end result is good) at recreating life from photos, but the excitement, the thrill is missing ... for me. I believe the thrill is in "the fight."

I've read recently (and I'm experiencing) that many portrait/figurative painters are trying out/moving in the direction of plein air painting. What we're doing is taking that thrill of painting one person from life and multiplying it ... more people, Mother Nature, a landscape ... all to capture in real time. j

Imperfect Like Life
Plein air paintings just aren't perfect. In viewing them, I'm reminded of those tags that hang from garments that tell you those imperfections are part of the charm of the piece. Prompting you to notice the hand of the maker. I do believe that there is a charm in well-done pieces created en plein air. There's an immediacy and three-dimensionality that is tougher to capture in a piece based on photos. There's an excitement shared with witnesses to the painting's development: those who were there, at the same time, in the same place. They get the same thrill.

"Coconut Cake" was painted from life, no bugs, multiple sessions.
I didn't feel comfortable showing you my paintings from yesterday. The viewer has to do so much more work to piece together the scene I saw. With plein air painting, I always wonder if my audience has any idea what it is that I actually painted, even though they see me facing in the direction of my subject. That's a far cry from the work done in my studio where I've heard people say they think they can take a bite of that "Coconut Cake." At the same time, out there at Kidwell Farm, I had admirers -- young and old -- who clearly knew what my subject was and loved what they saw. So, while I want some of that accuracy/reality derived from the studio, I want to retain the passion/excitement/thrill of the mess. I want to combine the best of both worlds.

What I'm finding is that if (a big if) I can go back to the same spot and approximate the same conditions (lighting, subject), I can create just as charming, but better paintings from life ... just not all at once (alla prima). This was true, clearly, in "Cars and Coffee" (see previous post) -- a piece that's beautiful because it's being painted on the spot and that had the benefit of two outings to the same place.

When that's not possible, as in these plein air competitions where you paint for a few hours, stick it in a frame and that's that ... I need to practice and study and figure out how to work the paint to produce the best results under those circumstances. A challenge. A thrill.

A Note on "100 Faces in 100 Days" Exhibit
I will not be taking the show down tomorrow. It will remain up in the Artists' Atelier for a few more weeks (at 1144 Walker Road, Suite G, Great Falls, VA 22066). I'll be in for the 12:30pm to 6pm open hours tomorrow (Wednesday) and the studio will be open on Saturdays throughout the month from noon to 4pm. I may add other extended hours as well. I'll let you know here.

August 31 - September 21: "100 Faces in 100 Days" on exhibit at the Artists' Atelier, 1144 Walker Road, Great Falls, VA. Open hours: Wednesday, August 31, 12:30 to 6:00pm, Saturdays, Noon-4pm. Additional hours will be posted on my blog.

August 3-September 5: 'Scapes Exhibit at the Art League, 105 N. Union Street, Alexandria, VA. My entry, "A New York State of Mind," won Honorable Mention.

Thursday, September 8, 7:30pm: Demo for the Vienna Arts Society, Vienna, VA. More details to come.

Registration Open Now for my Fall Portrait Drawing and Painting class and Still Life Painting Class. See the Classes page on my web site for more information.

Sunday, October 2, 10am-5pm: MPA McLean Artfest, juried outdoor arts festival, McLean Community Park, McLean, VA

Saturday and Sunday, October 15&16, 10am-5pm: Great Falls Annual Studio Tour. Major weekend long event with 47 artists from Great Falls Studios participating in a self-guided tour. I'll be in the Artists' Atelier, the studio I share with 14 other artists at 1144 Walker Road, Suite G, Great Falls. Last year, the tour drew 7200+ visitors from throughout the DC area. Don't miss it!

To read more about the 100 Faces in 100 Days project on my web site (www.jillbanks.com), go to the 100 Faces Project Pages 1 and 2 where you can see all 100 of my volunteers. Click on the paintings, and go to my blog post for that person's sitting.

Web: www.jillbanks.com
Blog: jillbanks.blogspot.com
100 Faces in 100 Days Project Page 1 (faces 1-54): www.jillbanks.com/jillbanks/100_Faces_in_100_Days_Project.html
100 Faces in 100 Days Project Page 2 (faces 55-100): www.jillbanks.com/jillbanks/100_Faces_in_100_Days_Project_2.html
Email: jillbanks1@aol.com
Phone: 703.403.7435

1 comment:

Christine said...

I'm glad you were only sleeping. I missed having an update from you. :0)

I hope we get to see the tractor. I'm intrigued by the 'pink'.