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Monday, October 19, 2009

First Steps - Again

After becoming disheartened recently with my approach to painting with acrylics, I've stepped back a little and reassessed my materials and my methods. As I've described in earlier posts, my technique previously relied on applying layer after transparent layer of heavily diluted paint to sealed watercolour paper, gradually working up to the intensity of colour and tonal value I wanted. I like the textures I'm able to achieve using this technique and have generally been happy with the results unless I've been careless with the application of paint and have overshot the mark. Without the means to "undo" a layer or two, I've often been left with nowhere to go.

Something about Kelly Singleton's recent post of a work-in-progress featuring a pronghorn antelope provided the spark to rethink my approach and, after re-acquainting myself with the methods described by my idol Robert Bateman, I was inspired to return to gessoed masonite and opaque acrylic paint - Bateman says he mixes white even with his darkest colours to achieve this opacity.


My first day with this painting was extremely frustrating as I struggled to find a technique which worked for me. Initially, I diluted my paint as I have in the past but it was as if the gessoed surface repelled the paint, forcing it to clump uncontrollably. Once I'd experimented with a thicker consistency, the paint behaved more predictably and I began to feel I was making headway. After several days work, progress has been slow, but I'm really enjoying the luxury of being able to paint over any areas requiring adjustment. Without the pressure to get it right the first time, it's as if a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. The painting measures 36" x 18" and, at my current pace, might be finished by Christmas! My aim now is to develop a faster method of working without compromising the results. Most obviously, I need to modify my process and begin by blocking in to establish form and tone before I begin to refine the painting and add detail. In my defence, I was keen to bring at least a small part of the painting to something approaching a completed state just to prove to myself that I could apply these unfamiliar techniques successfully.

I'll be making good use of artistic license and will insert a dingo into the lower right foreground. I've not seen one at this spot yet, but their tracks are commonplace and I don't think I'm stretching the truth too much. With an abundance of wildlife in the area I'm sure a dingo has stood in this spot at some time, or will at some point in the future!

Cheers
Pete

16 comments:

Sally McLean said...

Wow! This is going to be great! the detail is fantastic.

Peter Brown said...

Thanks Sally. There's no telling if and when I'll finish this one - there are so many challenges to overcome!

Congrats on completing Ollie - I'm sure your client will be thrilled. Once again I wasn't able to post comments on your blog for some reason.

john said...

Peter, It's good to see your courage at being willing to try a new approach. In my younger years I tried everything until I gradually realized that acrylics are superior to everything else. If you allow me, I'll make a few suggestions. White acrylic paint is plasticy, and hard to work with. I use only white gesso in place of white paint. I'm experimenting with Killz. I dont know if you have that in Australia, but it's cheaper than gesso. Another trick is to start painting on a gray surface, or even a warm toned surface instead of white.

Peter Brown said...

John, thanks for the great tips! I have a large tub of gesso handy which I'll try in place of white acrylic paint.

By the way, your latest paintings are terrific, but once again Blogger won't let me post any comments to your blog!

April Jarocka said...

Wow Peter you've been busy. I hope it comes together for your soon than your expect. I'm in the same boat...not with the acrylic, but with working on a large canvas. It amazes me to see artists working great detail into parts of a painting whilst leaving other parts underdeveloped...am I doing it all wrong here or something, as I prefer to build it all up in stages together. And I agree Pete, John's work is beautiful.

Peter Brown said...

April, I agree that the traditional approach is to block in before refining the painting and adding details, however, it seems not everyone subscribes to this method. Have a look at the latest post from Jim Bortz for his "focus squares" technique, a very different take on the painting process.

Erik said...

Congratulations on the mental victory. I'm sure it must feel great to know you can always correct things and move things around without having to plan everything from the start. I think the painting looks great so far and I'm looking forward to see how it will progress. Bateman uses a big household brush in the early stages of a painting, something I'm wanting to give a go too in the near future.

Peter Brown said...

Thanks for your comments Erik. I know you're fond of loose brushwork at the moment so the household paintbrush might be just the tool for you! I look forward to seeing the results.

Lynda Schumacher said...

The detail in this is looking great, Peter; and I so enjoy reading your genuine approach to your painting process and the changes you experience.

Peter Brown said...

Thanks Lynda. I sometimes wonder whether I'll ever settle on a consistent style and approach; I'm constantly discovering artists whose work I admire and whose techniques and style I can't help but be influenced by!

DennyHollandStudio said...

Pete~ this painting already has the markings of a great one...again, your rock formations amaze me. Over the years I've found acrylics frustrating for some reason, so I work in oils which allow me, (a slow painter), more working time. Congratulations on this breakthrough!

April Jarocka said...

Thanks for the link Peter. Always interesting to know about other people's methods.

Peter Brown said...

Thanks Denny, but I'll only consider it a breakthrough when it's finished - there's a chance it'll end up in the "too hard" stack! I'll certainly be attempting an oil painting at some stage as a means of determining which medium suits me best.

Dean Richards said...

I like this Pete. Run with it!

Jeremy Pearse said...

Very nice so far Peter, I'm hoping that you will finish this one quickly as I'm looking forward to the finished result.

Peter Brown said...

Thanks Dean. I'm running, but with frequent rest stops!

Thanks Jeremy. Don't hold your breath!