Friday, April 8, 2011

How Do You Know You Are Improving?

Living master David Leffel commented "If you are an abstract painter, how do you know if you are improving?"  His premise is that you have only a few variables to work with as a representational artist.  These are; the concept, holding the brush, shapes, values, colour, edges, and paint quality.  Oh, and did I mention your ability to "see"?  Now John Leonard believes that abstract painters have the same elements to deal with.  Quite a contrast to just throwing paint according to your emotions etc.

Pines - no concept but to copy

Tomorrow I get to pinch hit teaching people who are ready to start a still life.  Part of the mission is to get them to think before they get going.  I plan on doing this by having them do a concept description.  The concept deals with how one strategizes about the painting and how it will read, or what the painting is about.  They will thumbnail shapes to derive a value pattern and composition.  Then they will choose a colour strategy, consider how they will paint the picture, where in the style spectrum they will chose to be, how they will approach edges, and determine the quality of paint they will use.  As they progress, my role will be to ask them about their execution compared to their concept, offer pointers and demonstrate specifics.

 Simple Still Life - full concept

In our case the still life will be painted outside under the sun.  So things will be moving and the light will be changing.  As the light changes they will do a second painting from the same setup.  Keeping these studies allows one to revisit in quiet times and observe elements from painting to painting hopefully seeing the improvement in the various elements.  You may not like what you see but you will be able to see changes in ability.

Sticking with the concept is often quite difficult.  The concentration wanes, a mistake looks great and one chases that, the inability to execute an element causes frustration, someone interrupts saying the painting is no good etc.

Here is a piece painted from imagination.


And here is another piece....


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