Thursday, November 5, 2009

Mountains Take Me Home

acrylic on cradled birch panel
18 x 18 inches

There is quite a back story to this one. The short of it is that recently I made a cross-continent trip by car. The trip was primarily to visit family members and friends, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity for a 6000 mile paint-out! Worried about the logistics of transporting wet oil paintings, I decided to try acrylics, and outfitted myself with a basic assortment, plus some mediums and a basic set of brushes just for the acrylics.

Oh, my. It was the month of the continent-wide heat wave. Hot air and dry winds. Trying to paint with acrylics outdoors was a disaster, even with retarder. I was ready to toss them in the nearest trash bin. I put them away, and pulled out my oils (which I had packed in a small plastic container, and happy I did!). To keep things managable as I traveled, I stuck to small studies, and used an alklyd walnut medium to speed setting up.

Once home, I decided to play with the acrylics in my studio, where I could control them better. After an unknown number (because I've blocked them out) of false starts and things best left undescribed, I adapted a technique I'd used years ago: planning the overall composition, but mixing up one color range at a time, building layers, and letting the painting reveal itself.

When I felt confident enough in what I was doing, I got out a cradled birch panel prepared with gesso, and began. With huge trepidations: these panels are not cheap! But I had an image of what I wanted to do, and I needed the rigidity of the panel to do it.
To tell the truth, when I began, I had no idea what the painting would be. I just had a vision of how I wanted to create it, and the general composition, and the process.

I began with paint thickened with a little heavy medium. The first layers created the overall composition. I laid on the paint, one color range at a time, with a brush, and finished it with painting knives to get the shape and texture I wanted. The layers were transparent or semi-transparent, so each layer of paint influenced what was below it and over it, and each layer was a little more transparent than the one before. I gradually shifted to a glazing medium, adding more with each layer, so that the painting began taking on the depth that I envisioned. The last to go on were several layers of thinly applied white glaze in selected areas, to provide a unity and tie the composition together.

And it was those white wisps that finally revealed the painting to me. Maybe it was there all along, and I just had to find it. And in the process, I think I found what I have been working toward all along.

The long-awaited website is UP!

My long awaited website is up at last! Please stop by for a visit:
"Musings" (nee' "Rambling") represents my journey back into visual arts. Now I find myself at the edge of a new phase of my growth as an artist. Over the last few months, I've found that my art is leading me on a journey without a planned itinerary. I just need to pay attention to where it takes me. I'm looking forward to wherever this journey is about to take me! I hope you will come along too.

I still want to have a place to share the "backstory" of my paintings, some of the struggles and insights, and other oddments, in the context of this new phase of my exploration. So this blog will continue.