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Posts Tagged ‘drip’

17febbluedrip

This is a small painting, buy our class standards, ~20” x 20”.   Not only that, but the composition is rectilinear, which conveys stability. But it packs a punch, doesn’t it!

Notice that it was painted in more than one orientation.  You can see that those horizontal lines at upper left are drips that happened when the canvas was standing on what is now the right side.  And notice that the white does not look like unpainted canvas. It’s the white that makes the blue & yellow-orange so luminous.

Veronica Sax, acrylic on canvas, 20” x 20”

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13ArleneTallRedWhiteMy painting class is full of surprises.

This painting started as a collage, or rather as a little window (about 2” x 1”)  chosen from a large 11”x17”  collage.  The painting, done in acrylic on two canvases joined in the middle for a total of 48” x 24”, takes its composition and color drama from the collage.  In the first layer, the red was red, but then it became black and then red again, but this time with the black under-painting showing through. (Click to enlarge.)
The decisive turn of events in the painting process was the drip.  There was, of course, no drip in the collage. But the painting seemed to need a linear element.  The artist, Arlene Tarpey, dislikes hard edges in her work.  What to do? Let the linear element create itself!  The drip, therefore, was not a result of a messy painting style, à la Jackson Pollock, but was deliberately engineered right there in the middle of the canvas.

Or rather, canvases.  The horizontal divide between the two canvases now became disturbing because the drip refused to ignore the break and emphasized the gap by oozing into it.  What to do?  Fussing with the drip would un-drip it and thereby highlight the awkward spot even more.

13ArleneTallRedTopSolution: take the thing apart and treat each panel as an independent painting.

This sort of thing happens only when you’re working in the abstract mode.  You’re not committed to representing an image and you’re not hemmed in by preconceived notions about what this thing is supposed to look like.  You are IN the process and responding to what happens brush-stroke by brush-stoke and, yes, drip by drip. You’re not even committed to the original size of your work.  You can just take it apart.

Surprise!

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Beatrice K. finished this painting yesterday.  The collage that inspired it was quite small, 3 inches on the long side, and itself a result of cropping from a much larger collage.  While collaging, she found this gem in the corner of a large collage measuring about 11 x 17. (See previous posts under “collage”)   It was so powerful that it had to be painted in large format and its odd dimensions had to be accommodated.   Working out the proportions and considering that the painting had to be carry-able, the final painting was going to be 18 x 32 inches.  But that size canvas is not readily available.  What to do?  Build the custom support out of high grade ply wood and reinforcing borders.  A new adventure, and well worth the trip to the lumber yard.

When we work from a collage we don’t slavishly copy.  The paint has a mind of its own and we enter into a conversation with it.  So, when it drips, the artist has to decide whether to honor that drip or to erase it.  The drip at #3 adds vitality and immediacy to the painting. It adds the elusive dimension of time:  here’s something in the process of happening in a random way. We know the drips must be dry by now but at the same time they convey the feeling that they could go on.  This note of uncertainty draws us in.

It also acts as a chaotic counterpoint to the otherwise layered, rational-appearing composition.  Black (3) is the topmost layer.  That’s clear in relation to 1 and to 4, where at 8 the artist created a faint backlighting to create the feeling that 3 is floating.  We can see that 2 overlaps 1, but at 6 things get disorienting.  3 is on top of 2, but at the same time 2 drips over 3 and therefore 2 overlaps 3.  Oops, not so clear and rational.  Where are we?  Can’t figure that one out, so the viewer’s mind drifts and most likely zooms up to 5, where the contours are clear.  What a relief, we know what’s going on there!  That rectangle is nicely delineated, has a white sliver around it and a prominent white wedge leading up to it and on top of all that, it’s got texture.  How nice.  It’s restful and clear.  Oh, but wait, 5 relates to 4, by virtue of being the same color.  If 4 is the bottom-most layer and 5 is the top-most layer, how can they be connected, of the same cloth, so to speak?  The artist has created a visual paradox that is both pleasing and disquieting.  There’s nothing to do but to go into a visual mode and let the experience take a hold of you.  This is how art works. And I’ll have to say that again at the end of this essay.

What about #7?  What’s going on there?  #7 is stippled with the tip of the brush.  It forms a textured swarm over the already atmospheric #2.  The swarm of #7 takes the form of a wedge and therefore relates to the white wedge at the right.  Once you see that, you also see the wedge under #5.  We have a play on this triangle-form  that keeps the eye moving from one to the other.

There is an even larger repetition of a motif and that’s the L form.  We have it in the yellow at left and the large mass of black.  Even the turquoise in #4 intimates the L form and the burned sienna of #2  suggests that underneath the whole black thing there’s a massive L in reddish brown.  The repetition of a motif in a painting, as in music, focuses the attention, keeps us in the piece.

None of this was articulated before the collage was chosen as material for a painting.  When that little collage bit was framed with white strips of paper, there was a gasp of recognition:  this was something worth exploring.  The understanding of why it was brilliant—all that came later, in the doing.  This how art works.

(I use numbers to refer to passages in the painting in order to make the discussion clear and simple.  I want to avoid “artspeak.”  I recommend that you read through this and then go back and look at the painting—without numbers—just look.)

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Creating a painting from a collage has a liberating effect, in that the process allows you to experiment freely with color and textural techniques.  You can study the emotional impact of color relationships and the expressive effects of brush handling without having to worry about verisimilitude since you’re not depicting any part of visible reality “out there.”   This 20×16 painting, inspired by a collage, afforded the student/artist Bea K. the opportunity to work with a limited palette of black, white, purple and green. But much of the compelling effect of this painting derives from her handling of edges, both hard and soft, definitive  and transitional.  (See “collage” under Topics.)

The next project, working from a photo of a willow tree and a lagoon, added the challenge of credibly representing a real landscape while at the same time remaining in the painterly mode that governed the earlier collage inspired  painting.

In fact, this new project demanded even greater freedom and experimentation. No element in this painting is the result of coloring-in an outlined form.  Everything is painted directly and that is what makes it lively. The finger of water in the distant part of the lagoon (3) had to be painted with one sure sweep of the brush. The willow tree would only be willowy if the paint were allowed to drip (2 and 5).  The dripping of the paint has its own wildness but at the same time it has to be controlled.

This dialog between chaos and control is repeated in the composition itself.  The spit of land (1) has a definite shape and dominates the right half of the painting while the willow tree (2) conveys total chaos, not only in its organic form but also in the very way it’s painted and it covers the left side of the painting. The parabola shape of the green meadow (1) is repeated over and over:  the sky under the drips of the willow bows (5),  the  sliver of lagoon (3),  and the island on the left (4).   This repetition of a motif, though not obvious or mechanical, focuses the attention of the viewer, like a melody in a song or a refrain in poetry.

How about putting in some people, maybe under the tree at 4?  No need.  Birds in the sky?  No need.  The painting does not need any trickery, no sentimentality, no cliché.

The painting is restrained in its color scheme: green, blue, a sigh of pink in the sky, some sepia and a stroke of deep purple in the shadow at lower left.   It’s quite an accomplishment to evoke this delicate mood and at the same time to work with clear formal elements.

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