Working From Life And Imagination
I often get asked if I work from life. That is, from a tangible subject set before me. The answer is both yes and no depending on my mood at the moment. Sometimes I like to generate imagery in a doodle-like fashion drawing lines and forms out of my head. Other times, like in this painting, I set out real objects on my working table. I then begin sketching out selected contours and rhythms and place them loosely at intervals throughout the composition. I do not seek out completion of individual forms nor do I attempt at this phase to relate the objects to one another in three-dimensional space. I am simply interested in mapping out a composition of lines and arabesques across the surface. Above all, I am not interested in a conventional representation, rather a process of on-going invention and transformation from the subject.
The Cubist Factor
Partially deriving this working method from Cubist artists such as Braque and Picasso, I follow similarly in their path. Cubism was not intended to represent the world as it is presented to the eye or, similarly, to the objective capturing of the photograph. Cubism was intended to reassess conventional notions of verisimilitude or representation which had prevailed in two-dimensional art since the Renaissance. The Cubists wished to give a new reality to the visual world. A reality not based on a unified view of how Western art had previously been seen, rather a new art which would be based on the world seen afresh. From here on the world would be broken up into an assemblage of individual moments of looking and seeing from a variety of points of view. Let’s say the artist has chosen a pitcher to represent. His eye moves around and across the pitcher, noting the shifts in point of view as he moves along. Even the back side of the pitcher may be seen in a Cubist painting. Braque and Picasso held that this method of working produced a kind of hyper realism which imparted more of the essence of the visible world than that which had previously been meticulously duplicated from a single point of view.
The abundance of machines being invented around 1900 was added source material for Cubist artists. Locomotives and machines of mass production captivated turn of the century artists, especially the Cubists and their co-conspirators. Speed and new invention were literally spinning around in the air and artists were among the first to utilize the rapidly evolving modern world in their art. As mentioned above, the method of simultaneously seeing front, side and back of an object added a disruptive shifting of plane and surface making the object oftentimes appear to be in motion.
Tribal African and Oceanic art also played a strong role in the early work of the Cubist pioneers. Picasso had seen African masks at the 1900 Paris Exposition and had a couple in his studio which he worked from at the time. The powerful force of these masks reinforced Cubist ideas. They felt that these so-called primitive artists were truly in touch with unseen powers of creation. The keyword here was also “new invention”. They were not portraits in the sense of traditional Western portraits. Oftentimes there were no features at all. And, occasionally, eyes were represented as little pipes protruding outward from the plane of the face. This original manner of seeing and depicting was a great reinforcement of the dreamed of world which Cubists were in the process of creating anew.
Walking Through The Working Methods And Digital Process Of This Painting
You will notice the preponderance of black in this digital painting. I like to work with colored grounds which strike a definite mood right from the start of a picture. I laid on a black ground in this instance, my idea being to work with lighter tones on top of it. From the beginning, black established a certain dark mood which I began to try and lighten up with additions of lighter digital oil pigment. As I progressed adding more and more forms to the picture, I began noticing the key role which the black played within the forms themselves as well as in the surrounding areas. Cores of the forms remained largely black as well as surrounding areas. It felt important to me to preserve the integrity “as is” of these vacant areas of the black ground. This method saves much time and work in covering the canvas with information. So now working becomes almost like carving. I carve into the black “stone” to reveal the lighter forms leaving considerable amounts of the original black ground untouched. I seek for an integration of dark-light elements as well as an active dialogue between positive and negative shapes.
During the process, I refer back and forth from the painting to the objects in front of me. I pick out an element in the objects which catches my eye, say the base of a goblet or the cylindrical character of a flute. The process of importing new information into the painting at all stages of its evolution keeps the excitement of invention ever new and explorational. When is the painting finished? I could say when the picture is “full”, but that’s not quite right. I call it quits when I sense an overall pleasing composition of surface patternings as well as spatially penetrating passages which counter the overall flatness of the image. The strong dialogue between surface and illusion begun by artist Paul Cezanne in the late nineteenth century has strongly informed Cubist art as well as my own.
ArtRage And Wacom Tablet
I have used the digital app ArtRage on my Desktop PC with a 12 inch Wacom Tablet and Stylus throughout this painting. Normally during recent months I have been working digitally on my IPad Air. However, file size is limited on the iPad to somewhere around 2,500 pixels. Since I am now interested in larger file sizes for making larger format Giclee prints, I have reverted to my old methods of computer/tablet/stylus. Also it is much easier to draw and paint on the larger surface. You are able to draw with fingers and wrist less constricted as well as have more freedom of movement from your shoulder.
ArtRage is a superb program which I have been using for over five years. I am especially attracted to its fine Thick Oil Brushes which deliver a creamy and brushy paint surface effect with little effort.
This image was saved within ArtRage as a Photoshop PSD file which I later exported to JPEG format.
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