Thursday, November 10, 2016

Painting Victory, Part II

Tubes of the Trade, 8" x 10", oil on canvas 

This is the final painting I completed for Strada Easel's September Challenge.

The challenge, in case you don't remember from the last post, was to paint from life everyday in September. That doesn't mean plein air landscapes only - still life counts. When I didn't have a ton of time or I thought it might rain, I set up a still life on my front porch. Just like when I paint landscapes outside, I stopped when the light and shadows changed dramatically from my original composition.

On the last day, I laid some of my paint tubes on a stool on the porch. This turned out to be my favorite painting of the whole month. I learned more about myself as a painter and about what I still need to learn than I had in years from this sill little pile of paints.

When I painted the tubes, I got into the correct frame of mind for painting very quickly. This is a state in which artists cease identifying the scene as objects - metal tubes, white paper labels, plastic black caps, wooden stool - and start focusing on what we really see - colors, shapes, tones, values.

We are often taught to do this by painting and drawing white, grey and black shapes - spheres, cones, cylinders, cubes, rectangular boxes.

The idea is that these shapes are pretty much everywhere, so if you learn how light hits a cylinder, you can paint a tree trunk, if you can paint a sphere, you can paint a tomato, etc

New paint tubes look like a combination of cones and cylinders, but older, partially empty tubes don’t look like anything else - just scrunched up metal with white paper stuck to it.

For a long time, I thought I was pretty good at painting shapes and colors instead of "trees", "rocks", or "lemons" but painting the tubes showed me that I was far from entering that perfect state non-object thinking.

When I painted the used tubes, I reached a deep state of looking and painting exactly what I saw because I had no choice. It was very difficult and humbling and extremely fun.

Winter is coming, and with it, maybe some more still lifes of challenging subjects.

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