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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Peters Canyon

Abstraction as a Reference Point in Landscape Painting

Abstraction in landscape painting is an essential part of my approach in my plein air painting.  Abstraction is the result of the simplification process.  The complexity within my subjects would not be able to be conveyed without it.  Because I am painting on the larger side the decision making process is often spontaneous.   There just isn't enough time to contemplate the next move I am going to make.  Letting go and trusting my vision and my technique is a key for me.

The abstraction of the landscape is not something used without constraint.  The beginning of a painting is about establishing a clear structure of what you want the painting to be.  The shapes, values, drawing, and colors are the result of a visual plan.  Getting things right in the beginning of the painting allows greater freedom of expression later in the painting.  In the beginning of the painting abstraction shows up as simplified drawing.    There is that moment within every good painting when the subconscious is given permission to take over.  For me this moment usually happens when time is growing short and I have to push forward quickly.  It also happens when after a successful build up, the path to the finish is clear.  The motivations are the same; finish.  The difference is my internal review of the painting.  

When I reflect on the shapes, color, and drawing within a painting of mine, I see the repetition of thoughts represented in my other paintings.  These trends in expressed and subconscious thought that run throughout my paintings are my attempt to explain what I see.  Anything I paint is a simplification of the scene in front of me.  The abstraction of the landscape is a method of implying or explaining the detail without being a slave to that detail.  Abstraction is a personal shorthand of thoughts and ideas about the shapes and patterns within the landscape.

The thoughts and ideas represented in my paintings are organized and  planned to a point.  The landscape does not have a Gestalt aspect to it for me.  I paint what I see and then I go beyond what I see to what I know and feel.  The shapes within the landscape are known from endless observation.  Understanding relationships between colors and shapes across many experiences have led to expression through the repetition of patterns, marks, and colors within my paintings.  To me understanding something allows you to express it free from cliche.  Though a tree shares an infinite number of things with other trees their  unique characteristics is what defines it.  Seeing abstract shapes and patterns comes from freeing your perceptions about what things are and what they are not to you.

My abstraction of things within the landscape is a way of explaining the complicated nature of those things.  So much of our attempts to understand some things comes from our need to label things.  Labeling things as a way of defining things is subject to the oversimplification you find in cliches'.  Labeling as a way of understanding and defining things may prevent you from really seeing something.  Once it is labeled the thoughts and expression becomes tied to this stereotypical explanation.  It is difficult to break through preconceived ideas. What things are and what they are not is only the starting point to understanding.  Allowing undefined expressions is the way towards freedom of expression.

When I am painting it is important to be open to the impression of the shapes and colors within the landscape.  Having the confidence to express them is equally important.  When I am painting, I find myself getting deeper and deeper in focus.  The concentration level reaches a point where it just me, the landscape, and the painting.  That is the point where my subconscious comes forward and my expression becomes automatic.  It becomes me reacting to what is in front of me with full acceptance.  There is no contemplation-there is only me, the landscape, and my immediate interpretation.    These moments are full of great productivity.  This is when the surface fills quickly.  There is no second guessing.  The freedom to express without over critical analysis allows the mental and physical flow necessary for abstract expression of the shapes in landscape painting to come forward.

 The most simple act of painting is abstract.  Representing the dimensions of the real world on a 2 dimensional surface requires abstraction.  When I am painting, there is no intent to create abstract shapes within the landscape.  It is the set of circumstances that are allowed to coexist that create a fertile environment for their expression.   
The environment for the expression of abstraction for me is made up of Seeing, Confidence in your ability, Freedom to express, Concentration and Focus leading to the Subconscious expression.  A solid plan and start to the painting allows this process to come to the front in your paintings.  

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Horse Country

Ten minutes from the house in Corona and at the base of the Cleveland National Forest are these stables.  I have never painted a horse but I love the hills.
Because I am condensing the composition, I wanted to put it down to make sure that once I started painting I could fill the panel with all the information I wanted. 
This is my initial drawing of my composition.  This approach to the start of my painting was a reaction in the moment.  There are times when I choose to start differently.  I am not sure why this was my choice.
The largest shape was the sky so I quickly set the value orientation for the painting by choosing this color / value.
I then focused on the shapes of the trees and their value.  Once I start working through the progression of values represented in the painting, I did not want to loose the power of their shapes by diminishing their size in later stages of the painting.
The size of the panel 24x32 had me shorten the features I wanted to capture.  I really have to focus on speeding up my painting so that I can work with my favorite size 24x36 for landscapes.
Feeding time.  I took a bunch of pictures of the horses getting fed.  I may try to paint some horses in the studio.  I am not brave enough to try then en plein air yet.
Now I kind of using a paint by numbers approach to fill in the rest of the space in the painting.  I am working around the trees and brush so I can preserve their space within the painting.  This is a more time consuming approach which I will need to change in the future.
Pushing to get through this stage of development so that I can focus on the highlights and relationships of spaces within the composition.
Because the day was fairly clear the atmospheric perspective did not really show the distance, I was going to have to push the values to portray my vision of what I was after.
Filling the space with the darkest color within each of the smaller shape spaces.
The space has been divided.  Now it is time to embellish within that space.

The surface is covered and ready for detail and highlights.  I have preserved the space for the trees within the painting.  In retrospect, I could have done a better job in establishing the aerial perspective in the painting.  Sometimes you are too close to the painting to feel the entirety of it.

The finished painting.  Oil on board en plein air measuring 24x32.
The value shot.  I think I fell a little short in pushing back the farthest hill in the background.  
The detail shot.  I really liked the brush work in this painting.  They flowed nicely for the most part.