Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Egrets on the Brain

Maybe it's my uncertainty with oils, or perhaps it's been so long since I've painted in any medium that I've simply forgotten how much my thoughts throughout the day are dominated by the creative process.

Through the planning stages and on into the execution of this painting, I find myself mentally rehearsing my next move as the day progresses, even as I'm trapped in a city office block, up to my ears in computing work! Having endured my obligatory nine-to-five working day, I can finally apply paint to canvas, putting into practice the plan of attack I've formulated at work. When I've finished painting for the night, cleaned brushes and teeth and crawled into bed, I fall asleep conducting a post-mortem of the painting session, only to repeat the cycle when I wake the next morning. On that basis, I'm inclined to think that the pursuit of art is a lifestyle rather than a pastime!


Egret - A Hint of Colour!

After developing what I felt was an effective range of techniques and the beginnings of an identifiable style using acrylic paints, I felt quite daunted by the challenges posed by oils and was unsure how to proceed with this painting initially.

After dusting off some old art books and trawling the internet for guidance, I was able to develop a loose plan and make a tentative start. Having drawn in the egret and the major lines which define the structure of the painting, an under-painting in raw umber to roughly establish darks and lights was my first nervous step with this oil painting. The simple act of covering up that brilliant white expanse of canvas with a dilute layer of paint was enough to lift my spirits and, although I'm still feeling my way as I continue to refine darks and lights, I'm satisfied enough with the way this painting is progressing at this very early stage.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Egret - Laying the Foundations

As the idea for this painting nagged at me intermittently over several months and became more clearly defined, I came to the view that the unusual arrangement of the bird demands that its escape route not be blocked by a frame of any kind, hence my choice of a "gallery wrap" canvas.

To accentuate the egret's upward momentum, I've aligned the edge of the rock face immediately behind the bird with the bird's left leg and angled it similarly to provide a more or less unbroken vertical path through rock, leg and bird. I've also manipulated slightly the angle of the broken branch below the bird to mirror the angle of this line thereby suggesting an upwards-pointing "arrow" shape which (I hope) contributes further to the illusion of vertical movement. The small elongated highlight in the rock towards the lower edge of the canvas extends and reinforces this inverted "V" shape as do several other lines and edges, the most noticeable of which are defined by the bird's tail feathers and the margins of its wings. Whether these design elements add to the effectiveness of the overall composition I'll leave to you to decide. For the most part, they were already present in the reference photographs; I've simply adjusted their placement and will try to draw attention to those I feel are helpful in the design sense.

Hopefully, the image together with the explanation I've offered above begin to convey what it is I'm trying to accomplish with this painting. I'm in no way seeking to promote myself as any kind of authority where matters of composition are concerned; I trust, however, that providing some insight into my thought processes is of some interest.

I'm still reacquainting myself with oil paints having switched to acrylics many years ago, but I have managed to delve into the dark, dusty recesses of my mind to reawaken memories of basic oil painting techniques, including the idea of a monochrome under-painting - my next milestone.

Having just moved house, most of my spare time seems to be taken up with domestic chores, however, the prospect of establishing a workspace solely for art is spurring me on, the promise being that I can leave my painting paraphernalia set up and readily accessible, unlike my previous situation where I was forced to commandeer the kitchen bench space between meal times!        

More soon.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Taking a Chance

In the artistic sense I've tended to be risk-averse in the past and the subject of this painting is therefore a departure from my usual "safe" choices. From the point of view of my willingness to trust my artistic instincts and cheerfully confront the possibility that many viewers are likely to scratch their heads and ask themselves, "what on earth was he thinking?", it marks a significant advance in my evolution as an artist - whether the painting itself is judged a success or not. Less significantly, it will be the first oil painting I've attempted in many years.

At an intuitive level, before I'd had time to ponder too much on its suitability as a painting subject, I was drawn to the possibilities offered by the photograph that serves as the painting's inspiration; I love the translucency of the egret's wing and the bird's dramatic attempt to escape the confines of the image boundaries which, although a little disconcerting in the context of this painting, would seem to be entirely in keeping with its natural inclinations. After a prolonged period of procrastination during which I was frequently inclined to discard the idea entirely, I'm finally committing to the project and placing my faith in my initial positive reaction to what was really an accidental photograph. The shot that preceded it by a few seconds was far more conventional and depicts a very well-behaved egret prior to lift off; it may well feature here as a painting at some point too - perhaps after I've fallen flat on my face with this one and have reverted to my typically reserved self!

While I've managed to remain true to the original idea, I will combine and manipulate elements from several photographs as a means of arriving at what I hope will be a pleasing overall design. I'll be very interested to hear your reactions as the work progresses; as always, I invite you all to be as brutal in your assessment as you feel is necessary!