When you are perplexed by your painting... Play! Joy and freedom can often combine to lift your painting to new heights.
The juxtoposition of the two terms in this post title might seem unwarranted... even ill-considered. But let me put forward further thoughts to stitch the two together, so that they make better sense. I would offer that both are indeed creative art forms... though they are different mediums. Both use colour applied in short, but considered stitches, or strokes that are applied to a blank, neutral and often white ground... both being cloth of a sort. The goal in each process is to either adhere to... or to create a pattern or composition... usually sketched or pre-printed on the cloth ground. While both are most often viewed with a pictorial intent... each can be used to decorate three dimensional surfaces and functional objects... to include costumes and clothing. It can be decidedly agreed that the two terms share many commonalities.
However, the underlying reason for my choice of the terms to introduce the post lies much deeper than what has been stated in the opening paragraph. In order to further my thoughts and my underlying reason for using them... I would like to shift away from the grammatical use of the two terms as nouns. I would like to use their verb form as my focus for the remainder of the post... for within this framework arises an important and necessary consideration in referring to every artist's development. To paint then means to cover with colour... an expected answer... BUT... to embroider infers to decorate fictiously, or to embellish. Here is the main thrust of my post this morning.
As beginning artists, all of us are naturally tied to... and are dependent heavily upon the image or scene that lies before us. This does not change, neither when we are painting en plein air, in our studios... nor when we choose landscape or still life motifs or themes. The fact remains that we remain slaves to that which visually stimulates us to paint. Further to these limitations... many times we use photographic reference too directly as a tool to make paintings. Rather than creating in its truest sense... we are rather copying, or trying to lay down or reproduce as accurate an impression as our eyes and painting proficiency will allow. The danger in this mind set, is that we are (virtually) unable "to see the forest for the trees" and truly deprive ourselves of the truest opportunity to Create... which translates bringing forward into being in an imaginative or inventive fashion.
Let me make it clear... that I am not at all exempt from the compulsion to "copy" rather than to "create." But I do recognize more quickly when I am slipping into that old mode and I have devised strategies that I use to discourage such sliding back into old and unproductive habits. Many accomplished and respected artists prefer to paint exactly what is front of them. They have developed a fully creative and painterly approach that allows them to paint effectively and accurately reconstructing and translating the scene before them. It is then about choice.
In my latest large canvas "River Magic", I have approached painting it slowly and thoughtfully. A canvas 48x36 inches demands initial planning to even step up to it to paint. My subject attracted my attention and interest immediately. But I wrestled with which season I wanted to paint it in... and which elements I would use in my final composition. I took digital references in all three seasons and after deciding that autumn would prevail... I added some quick ink on paper notan sketches to my study. I then developed a more fully developed concept from these in the form of a more refined ink rendering to establish darks and lights.
Notan sketches in ink to work out compositional possibilities and masses. Note the date of Feb 26th, 2013 on the lower left notan sketch. Her one can see the value of a sketchbook. The "Idea" is born... and not lost... left to distill in the mind until one is ready to come back to the idea to push forward with painting.
Here are the two reference side by side on the easel... ready to support my start on the painting. Even at this critical point in the painting process... details mean nothing and can be altered as my thinking shifts around.
I have more or less followed the basic structure or composition of the two references, but you can see that my interest in adherence to specific detail has already "left the room." A searching for, rather than following a set direction is underway... right from the onset. The white conte line on the black toned canvas in itself is a reversal of the ink on paper rendering.
Here... I am into the layin part of the process... with attention to sky and middle ground and with absolutely no inclination to deal with the foregound area of the painting where I might shift away from big brush painting and deal with the rocks in a too focussed on actual detail approach. I have reached about a half hour point in the painting process at this moment.
This photo reveals a downward movement working outand exploring with actual rock shapes and texture. I have also directed my attention to defining texture and colour in the white pine trunks. Still no finalized decision-making in any area of the painting! Working over the entire surface to totally cover the black underpainting.
Here the layin is rapidly completed by scumbling colour thinly to give tanbible... yet unfinished form to the foreground. The ferns enter the composition from my immediate right of our driveway. They give a better visual feel than the existing rocks slipping down heavily and out of the picture plane. Besides that... there were ferns at the original site... just not where I needed them.
Here is the finished painting. The last half hour was spent balancing values, edges and textures. I will set it aside overnight and then return to it tomorrow... with a fresh eye... open to changing passages if necessary. I do feel an overall sense of accomplishment though. The final outcome... if you compare it to the original sketches and photo reference is vastly different in a number of areas. I feel that this final impression captures the universality of landscape structure in the Thousand Islands.
This setting could well be felt to exist on most any one of them... and none in particular. My intent was to capture and "embroider" a piece of that "River Magic"... that one can enjoy everywhere in this wonderful part of the world. It better reflects the sense of harmony and joy that I constantly feel here... rather that a laying down of a single accurate view of one particular place.
Do you feel that magic?.... Get back to me!
"River Magic" - oil on gallery wrapped canvas 48x36 inches
Good Fall Painting!... to ALL!!!