Saturday, March 30, 2013

Hayloft and Brushstrokes

Different Strokes

Well, Bruce and Tom certainly put me in my place. They weren't buying that I'm not premeditating the marks I make on the canvas. We can add to those two Ms. M.McN., the questioner from last night, who opened up this subject in the first place.

Honest!!!! I never think about it.

But now, because of their comments, I thought about it all day at the studio. 

Here's today's lousy photo, the hayloft in what will be its frame---though it's now only visiting so that I can judge the whole package. Anyway, as I was whining, this is a less-than-great photo. I actually like the painting so far.

"Hey!"  you might well say, "the photograph's in black-and-white! What gives?" 
The real answer is that I got fed up trying to make the photograph look like the painting. It has a blotchiness that is a painful reminder of my high school complexion.

An added bonus is that it shows you, via black-and-white, the importance of values, composition and drawing. They give 90% of the information the viewer receives about the painting. Yes, the color's fun. But values, composition and drawing are the workhorses, the real stars of successful paintings.

You'll see that, in order to be able to add some light near the bottom of the painting, I made up an access route with a ladder. The ladder is firmly nailed to the floor joist, and is thus completely vertical (without creating a need for guessed-at perspective).

But back to brushstrokes, where I started. 

I've taken some detail shots from within this painting to illustrate a point.  

In the sense that Seurat, for example, used a pointillist technique all through a painting, and with a nod to Van Gogh's brushwork, I claim, again, that I haven't an intentional program with my brushwork.

Detail, lower right, from the Hayloft

But it is true to say that my brushwork, for all its unintentionality, is decidedly my own.

I vary the marks, at least in my mind, depending on what I'm painting. At the moment, I stand accused of vertical marks when painting vegetation. Do I really do that? Is it annoying?

Detail, mid-left, from the Hayloft

(I see it's time to go back and deal with some brush hairs and some other detritus.)

The next is a view of the barn wall, to the right of the opening. You'll notice that, while the hay has very definite brushstrokes, the wall, being only a supporting actor, manages his color with nary an evident brushstroke. 

I believe that there's a hierarchy within every painting. To have introduced strong brushwork into the barn walls would be to encourage the viewer to look at them. I don't want that. I want them to do their job as unobtrusively as possible. Having no evident brush razzmatazz is a good start in that direction.

Barn wall, detail. Intentionally lightened to show colors.
Below is a detail of part of the landscape. with quite different paint handling.

detail from Hayloft landscape

So, apparently, here's the story: I seem to vary my marks depending on what I'm painting and with a regard to how the object, etc., fits into the hierarchy of the composition.

But who doesn't do this? I certainly am not doing it on a conscious level. I'm just trying to paint each part appropriately, in the context of the painting.

Take it from me: don't deal with all the parts of your painting using your 'signature' brushmark. It will be excruciatingly boring, and all about look what I can do!

For now I'm going to get some sleep, resting up so that I'll be ready to defend my brushstrokes from you tomorrow.



  1. I hope you realize that I was was not criticizing you in any way in my previous comments. The opposite, in fact: I was saying that you do NOT have 'one-trick-pony' brushstrokes. You do -- instinctively rather than as a contrived plot -- have an amazing ability to vary your paint strokes to focus attention and add unique energy. I think that 'energy' is very identifiable as "Jurney".
    And, the new ladder-hatch in the loft painting makes the whole painting come together. PERFECT addition of a whole new dimension and added 'adventure' in that section. Brilliant.

    1. Hi Tom, glad you like the ladder. As for criticizing, I was only kidding. My wife would tell you that as long as I'm teasing everything's fine. It's when I stop that you should run for the hills.

  2. Tom, I agree with your comments. I have had the good fortune, to view this painting, at different stages. This stage is the best yet! I love the fact that the viewer will be "caught off guard" when they look at this one. I like to say "Donald activates the surface" speaking about the way he strokes paint on his canvas. Sometimes, he can bring a paint brush to a stump in no time! Sometimes a feather stroke of little pressure,
    A vigorous scrub, sometimes a little touch of brilliant dots here and there on his canvas, are part of his painting style. Happily Painting!