It was at the Brandywine Museum of Art
that I saw interesting hocus-pocus done
on some of N.C. Wyeth's work. To show how he saved canvas
by painting on top of a finished piece they used
an ultra-violet light or x-ray photo to strip away the top piece.
I was fascinated.
As I left the studio today, exhausted, I thought it might be fun to reveal the under-layers of a recently completed abstract piece. As you know, I struggle with abstract...especially when it is totally
non-representational. If you ever gaze at an abstract and think "my five year old could do that," I beg you: have him do it! Hang it on the wall and enjoy it...it is not an easy task.
This is a huge, for me, canvas: 3 feet high by 4 feet wide, with an inch or more of depth on the sides. It is "couch size." I could literally feel what I wanted, I knew the emotion, I just did not know how to make it happen.
Here it is, hopefully complete:
36 x 48, oil, Flow
Calm and almost soothing, it does present the possibility of being different things to different viewers, and I like the 3 tiny orange marks, almost not visible but interesting enough to notice.
So let's magically peel back the layers of paint and look below the surface. Here is what it looked like the week prior:
the randomness of tonal patches and the color grey still bothered me, and I couldn't really justify any reason for so much orange (headed nowhere) ; still, the above was an improvement in progress over the prior iteration below:
there is a huge light glare on this photo but you can see where the orange came from, I was trying to draw a map of parts I liked and did not like, after trying unsuccessfully to make the darks more cohesive; truly at this stage I was one step away from trashing the whole experiment.
Compare it to the layer of paint below this one:
What is jarring about this, to me, is that there is only light and dark...no middle tones that are convincing enough to be a transition and I think the tentativeness to the shape looks very, well...tentative. It was time to get more serious about real estate for darks and midtones.
OK, notice here that when I started out I had the canvas reversed. I had placed the lighter side of the canvas on the left and had lots of (harsh) yellow in it as well as a lot of grey. Wasn't working for me.
And you can see that before I painted them out and drew a "map" I had some squiggles of orange already cropping out ...
this is a layer beneath the one above, lighter but the dark hatch marks left me jittery, like a painting on too much caffeine. This layer is actually where most of the interesting texture came from, and that texture does add some exciting light play in the final version. But this beginning is a long way from my finished piece shown at the top.
Why do I share this? It would be much smarter to work silently on this abstract puzzle and then share my successes once they begin to happen. But I think that the general public fails to give credit to the difficulty of non-representational art. You do not have to like it but you should know that it does not "just happen." And, I share because I think many of us expect all our first (and second and third) attempts to turn out satisfactorily. Ain't gonna happen and this is just proof of that.
So go struggle. Cause something to evolve. Change it up and push your envelop.
I learned enough with this piece to justify all the paint it took. Perhaps the next will unfold more promptly.