Fresh Eyes & Different Context to Review the Work
Getting new perspective on a painting, outside of the studio, is an important part of creating a good painting. I do this in numerous ways including moving the work to another room, looking at it as a reflection in a mirror, photographing it with my phone and looking at it when I am doing errands, etc.
Dad's Paint by Numbers
My dad has taken up paint-by-numbers in his retirement. In the past year, I believe he has done about 20 or so paintings. I have enjoyed that he now comes to me with painting questions. Questions such as brush selection, cleaning brushes, colour mixing (often kits come with the wrong color, missing color, or Dad aspires to change the colors) and in our latest discussions it was about taking a step back from the work to get perspective.
His latest painting is of a Corsair taking off from an aircraft carrier. He chose this one as his grandson is particular about Corsairs from the movie Disney Planes and aircraft carriers from the movie Top Gun Maverick. Dad brought the painting for Walter and me to see on Sunday. Dad seemed disappointed about it. I thought it looked great and I offered to mount it to stretcher bars. To me it looked just like the reference photo with the same amount of detail. I was already familiar with the artwork, as the kit came with a 2 x 1.5-inch reference image. I scanned it and printed it out 12 x 16 inches, so it was a useful size. And I also scanned the paint by numbers itself so Dad could see it larger and refer back to it once the numbers and shapes were covered.
Stepping away from the work
I tried to explain to him that taking a step back from the painting, especially out of context (not in your painting area), can help the brain start to see the painting as a whole image and not individual brush strokes that were toiled over. Lately I hang my latest work by my bike trainer. So while I am doing a workout on my bike I can glance at the painting while I am away from my paints and brushes.
Sometimes it just takes time - Don't rush it
A few days later, on our usual Wednesday call he told me that he has it hanging on his wall and he can now see the aircraft parked on the carrier and it looks great. He said he was so close to the painting for so long that he could only see his marks and not the whole photo. That is what I was trying to tell him!
New Forest Paintings
I am releasing several paintings next week onto my website. My goal is to consistently paint while I am releasing work to keep the momentum going; So, as I am preparing to share the new work, I am also painting even newer work.
The current challenge for my brain is to go on to the future painting and let these current pieces be, but in the studio setting my brain looks for where the next brush stroke needs to go. Similar to Dad’s challenge of not seeing the painting between the numbered blobs.
There has been one piece in this upcoming collection that just isn’t working. I’ve moved a bush that was central in the painting, I’ve changed its shape, and yesterday I was lightening and darkening different branches in hopes to make it have depth or make sense. I keep going back to it and redoing it.
Created sample prints as a way to get Perspective
With my self-imposed deadline of January 26th looming, this week I photographed all the pieces as if they were ready to go and I made sample prints of them. This allowed me to see the work in a different context away from my palette, away from the opportunity to make changes as they are prints on paper.
The prints that ARE working (I am not showing the piece that did not make the cut) I am holding the painting titled "Sunrise Silouettes" and you can see "Autumn Sun" on the right.
I immediately noticed that the one painting that is not working also had a very different light to it (painting no shown here). The colors were muted, almost pastel and the glowing light was throughout the piece with minimal shadows. It lacked warm tones and is an overall cool piece. The colors, values, everything was off. So in actuality, it was not the bush in the center that was challenging my eyes but the entire painting was odd for me. I just kept picking on that one detail. As soon as I pulled it from the set of prints, everything came together. I loved this collection.
Sample print of the painting "Rooty Ridge"
As I type this, it kinda feels like a metaphor for life. We are often annoyed or upset by some small detail, and perhaps the wrong thing. And if we step away and review it from a new vantage point and make a more substantial, thoughtful change, everything is great.
New Forest Paintings next week
New work will be available next week on January 26th. Sign up to my newsletter to have a preview of the new work.