Sunday, May 26, 2013

Saving the Bones

A Borrowed Design

About ten days ago, I sent the following image to a student who is negotiating the delicate transfer from pastels to oil. The artist is Leon Lhermitte (French, 1844-1925). He was equally adept, and equally comfortable, in pastel, in charcoal, and in oil. As I wrote to the student, Lhermitte's oils often share a flickering light with his pastels, and his pastels benefit from some of the solidity and gravitas of his oils. 
(This was snapped with my phone, from a catalogue, so bear with it. It is pastel, about 15" x 21", 38x53 cm).

Today, an artist friend and I were discussing the tendency, shared by almost everyone, of almost always establishing the horizon, or at least the main motif, at the same distance into the painting. The pastel shows a way of dealing with a high horizon.

I proposed that we make a painting, stealing from Lhermitte's composition. I wouldn't paint his painting, but the same basic relationships might well yield something interesting.

My canvas is a bit more horizontal than Lhermitte's, 12" x 18".
I placed these marks in about the same places as his masses.

Among other issues, I got the horizon closer to the top than I wanted. But it gave me the general idea. I started by laying in a grisaille which was very much a loose copy of his painting. But I didn't do it very well and, after all, I could make my own subject. So I wiped most of the additions off, getting back to the basic scheme.

I substituted a house for his trees, and then just went on from there. This grisaille has become my made-up place, but there's probably more I'll do to it. The culvert was a late addition----don't know if it will stay. 

Those who've been in the workshops know that I'll be able to proceed with color tomorrow, without disturbing the grisaille.

The point of this, of course, is that there are lots of starting points that can help you when you seem to be stuck. Take a favorite painting and transpose its relationships on to a blank canvas. Then let your imagination go where it will. 

My students know that I might very well wind up painting the 59th Street bridge instead.

Nothing is ever for keeps until it goes off to market.

DJ, 59th Street Bridge, ca. 1980

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for even more inspiration. I love how your pieces are constantly evolving until, somehow, you decide that you've reached a comfortable resting spot. For now. Nothing is sacred and all parts are potential seeds for something greater down the road. (to mix a few metaphors).
    Your painting style reminds me of an amazing video I saw of another art form: the apparent direction you start toward is rarely the eventual destination: (here is a youtube video of her may have seen it):