How I Restored Freshness to My Work

30 Nov 2011

We've been discussing shocking your system to keep your art practice from falling into routines. Another excellent means of accomplishing shock is to switch media.

By and large, I work in two media: graphite and white pencil on toned paper, and oil paint on canvas.

Piera by Daniel Maidman, oil on canvas, 28 x 22, 2008.
Piera by Daniel Maidman, oil on canvas, 28 x 22, 2008.

I've worked pretty hard on both of these techniques for some years now, and I've gotten better at each. But I've also gotten used to how these media behave. I can anticipate some of what they do, and I find myself slipping into thoughtless mark-making. Instead of depicting what I observe, I render what I know.

Switching media cleans the table. You have to discover the properties of a new medium, and in turn, struggle with how to translate your observations into an image. This process of translation is the struggle of a fledgling artist. Conquering it is a sign of advancing mastery. But conquering it is not necessarily beneficial. It is good to struggle with the translation: it maintains thoughtfulness, and intensity of observation, and vitality of work.

I completed a project, not long ago, of depicting my model, Piera, in as many media as I could think of. Each week, I switched media. I was glad to trade proficiency for surprise. Here are some of the images I made of her.

Right to left: charcoal, watercolor, ballpoint pen, pencil and cutout paper.
Right to left: charcoal, watercolor, ballpoint pen, pencil and cutout paper.

This process restored a great deal of freshness to my work. As in the case of varying mark-making we discussed previously, the freshness didn't occur in the work on this project alone. It bled back into my other work as new possibilities occurred to me, as in the work below.

Self-Portrait as Hockney by Daniel Maidman, oil on canvas, 48 x 36 , 2011.
Self-Portrait as Hockney by Daniel Maidman,
oil on canvas, 48 x 36 , 2011.

 


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Comments

DebbieW wrote
on 3 Dec 2011 10:37 AM

The human form with all of its shapes and sizes is fascinating to interpret in whatever medium.

cjwaterfield wrote
on 21 Feb 2012 2:01 PM

Great article!

I love this idea, plus I personally love to use as many media as I can, from oil paints and pastels and watercolours, to even stones and feathers (www.facebook.com/photo.php)! I always enjoy the prospect of creating a new style, or a new texture.