Trying to loosen up

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TJS1358 wrote
on 25 Jun 2012 12:34 PM

I just started painting a few years back after a 20+ years of absence from fine art. My study was sculpture so painting is new to me.  I started with realism but would love to loosen up without compromising the image.  Here are my latest two paintings in oil

Question:  After looking at these does anyone know of an artist that I could look towards for refining a style or at least achieving one? Smile

I think I have the technical aspects down that I'm comfortable working with now it's style.  Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!  Thanks.

 

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KatPaints wrote
on 25 Jun 2012 10:23 PM

These are wonderful paintings. I absolutely love them. They are very sensitively painted and have a feeling of charm, enchantment, romance (stylistically), and nostalgia. They also coordinate because of the use of the plum color and use of the petal shape in both images (the sleeves) on the girl. You clearly have shown that you technically understand the medium and have an understanding of light, color, form, etc. You have proven this by mastering these technical skills in a short length of time. I can see your wanting to loosen up a bit especially in the hair and areas of the girl's face.

Although you feel that you need to work on style by loosening up (as referred by your title,) you actually have a style at this point in time. Yet, I understand your wanting to "loosen up" because this is a goal of my own. I also did not paint for 20+ years and have found that my skills have somewhat reverted because of the experimenting, but I'm sure I will eventually find a balance.

You could actually continue doing what you are now doing and build a body of work along the lines of the work you have shown. Style is the result of understanding technique (form, color, line, mass, light, etc) medium, mixed in with your temperament and personality. Just by continuing to do what you are doing, your work will naturally develop a consistent style that is yours. If you do want to experiment, I would suggest making micro changes. Maybe a brushstroke is more immediate and direct with less blending. Perhaps a highlight is slightly more impasto. As you paint, be aware of the direction your work is moving towards. Assess the possibility when you can make a micro change. Painting is like a dance. There is a give and take relationship with your canvas and  you simply need to be aware when it is time to make a slightly more daring move - a bolder stroke, a lost edge. These are decisions that are made during the process and tend to be more spontaneous. Frankly, looking at these two paintings, they are perfect, but I do understand your wanting to expand your skills.

Keep in mind that technique is one aspect of style. Subject matter or making a statement is another. You will need to clarify to yourself what it is that you would like to accomplish.

It is getting late and I'll think up who to recommend that has a looser style tomorrow. I'm not sure exactly who to recommend because it is so personal. I would suggest John Singer Sargent. I would also recommend Quang Ho. Your flowers remind me of some of the Dutch painters, but I'm not sure if you'd like to get away from this look.  Many of the Russian painters are inspirational. More to come tomorrow

 

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TJS1358 wrote
on 26 Jun 2012 10:13 AM

Kat thank you so much for responding and your beyond kind words towards my paintings here.  I really appreciate it. I have so much more to learn sometimes it's overwhelming.  I never thought of the process in the way that you explained it.  You have made sense out of something that I didn't even know where to start!

I have been stressing so much on 'style' - what direction I should take with  my work.  I thought maybe someone else could see something in it that I can not.  And you have made some wonderful suggestions that I never even thought of!  So thank you again.

I love all styles of art from hyper realism to abstract expressionism.  But I look at my work and I personally don't see where it fits in any place.  I'm afraid what I naturally gravitate to with my choices of subject matter look old fashioned or out of date.  I never looked at it as nostalgic which to me is a good thingSmile  So thank you again.  Someone from the outside looking in.

When I started out I was just concentrating on method - getting the paint onto the canvas! LOL.  That's what I meant I guess in technique.  More of the craft side of painting.  I'm comfortable with that right now for a direct method.  Just comfortable - in other words,  I know I won't screw it up too bad!

Believe it or not the painting of the little girl is looser than what I did previous when just learning to use the oil paints.  It was a big step for me.  This is what I was doing before and really pushing the realism to the best of my ability.  It's a nice painting but a bit tight.

To me this painting has some other  problems but I just don't know where I should go from here.  You have made me look at my paintings in a whole new way.  So thank you so much.  I will look at some of the Dutch painters as well and any further suggestions I will relish! Per your suggestion  I looked  at some of the old Dutch masters and they didn't paint this tight!  I can learn a lot from them.  You are spot on. 

I really appreciate the time you have taken.  Nostagia - I like that:-)  

 

 

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KatPaints wrote
on 26 Jun 2012 6:26 PM

You are very welcome. I wish someone would have explained the painting process to me in a way similar to what I told you. It would have saved me a lot of frustration. Frequently, we think we need to throw out our usual way of doing something and try on something totally new. Sometimes, that approach works really well for some people or at times for experimentation, but also considering our work as an entire process or dance allows us to tweak our progress by making small changes. Ever see someone dance who is as stiff as a cardboard cut out?  If the dancer simply moves their hips a little more, the overall dance completely changes. By doing this, we work within our natural abilities, personality and temperament,  and change occurs over time.

Yes, there IS so much to learn that it is overwhelming. I wish I could take a year off work (in good health) and just paint. I've been doing plein air on the weekends and I have not encountered anything more difficult to paint. Each painting is about  three no more than four hours of time. If I mess up, then that's  that. It has it's benefits and drawbacks. At times, I get really frustrated at my progress and wonder if I've been delusional about my artistic abilities for all these decades. Plus starting up painting after being away from it for so long sometimes makes me trash myself for not keeping up. I know individuals who were far behind me in terms of skill decades ago and now they are doing really well and have built a wonderful collection of work to showcase their efforts. I think the key is to keep doing it because you enjoy it and find it an exciting challenge. I also need to make painting a priority...

I think your concern that your work uses subject matters that are dated is a genuine and valid concern. I've have seen many paintings that were painted recently and look old. There is a big difference between looking old with nostalgic and timeless. A portrait of a woman with a bouffant hairdo is dated. A child holding a flower is probably timeless. The emotional vibe you get from a work is timeless. If a still life features a vase that would never be found in someone's decor, it is probably dated. If the still life features a vase that is not in vogue but provokes a feeling or mood, it can possibly be timeless. I could see owning the painting of the girl with a pearl earring even though it is centuries old while a contemporary painting with modern objects and no statement would eventually make me tired. Of course, there is a fine line of what is timeless and it takes good judgement to see the difference between the two. So it is good that you are on your toes showing concern over your subject matter choices. Fitting in is a different matter. Just keep in mind that the internet links you in with people of a variety of interests. If your interested in abstract  expressionistic Ukranian Easter eggs, I'm sure you could find someone else somewhere in the world that is also interested in them.

I checked out your blog and that gives me a better idea of where you are coming from. I noticed that you painted the same Sargent portrait that I did a study of about 20 years ago. Be sure to add John Singer Sargent in your credit, many people may not know that this is a study from his work.  In addition to  Sargent, I noticed you also included Watts and a Russian artist as links. I would also suggest checking out the work of Fechin, Isaac Levitan, Carolyn Anderson, still life studies by Dutch artists (you know those tulip paintings...) I also have a post here somewhere  on "lesser artists" and I think you might be interested in a few.  My favorites ---- Russian impressionists!

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TJS1358 wrote
on 26 Jun 2012 9:18 PM

Thank you Kat I really appreciate all the time and advice you have given here. I completely understand too with regards to other artists seemingly making greater strides who started out about the same time. I am experiencing this as well.  I finally had to look at it that I am where I am in my painting for a reason and not beat myself up so much LOL.

I will change "Study of Lady Agnew" to "Study of Sargent".  I had Lady Agnew so much on my mind that I assumed everyone in the world knew who painted her.  After I did this study I was literally depressed for about 6 months cause nothing I painted afterward even got close to Sargent's.  But I learned so much from doing this study.

Fechin?  I adore Nicolai Fechin's work.  I've seen several in person and they pale in comparison to what is seen in books or on the net.  I have been a fan of Carolyn Anderson as well. She reminds me a bit of Fechin.  I also love Asaro's work.  There are just too many to name!

Your advice to me is invaluable.  The things I brought up?  You have turned them for me in a new way. It's seems silly now:-)

And the changes?  I think it's the perfect solution.  Thank you again and again.  I appreciate it more than you'll ever know!!!!

 

 

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TJS1358 wrote
on 26 Jun 2012 9:37 PM

I wanted to add too Kat that I will seriously take your suggestions for artists. If you feel that I could take a lead from one of them or incoporate something, I will really look at them differently rather than just drooling over their work.  Wonderful suggestion.  I want to thank you again:-)

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KatPaints wrote
on 27 Jun 2012 7:06 AM

Comparing yourself to Sargent will make you depressed. Use him as inspiration. I recently saw one of his paintings (at eye level) and sat there for the longest time  studying the painting. I get a calm "rush" when I see his work. He is incredible. Keep in mind that this is a result of his skill, knowledge, etc with a mix of his temperament and personality. You probably do not have his genetics, so you need to work with what you've got.

I really appreciated this conversation and I am so glad that you've gained something out of it. It is nice talking with someone who is advanced and can understand my point of view. Regarding the artists, I cannot tell you what to incorporate or from what to take the lead. You are already at this level, where you can see what you like and work toward this goal. You need to trust that you have this ability to make these calls. When you start your next painting, set a micro goal. Say to yourself "I am going to achieve more of X in this painting." When you finish acknowledge what went well and what you'd like to work towards next.

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TJS1358 wrote
on 27 Jun 2012 8:48 AM

Thank you once again for the nice compliment.  I learned so much from the Sargent study especially how he treated edges or lack of depending on your point of view and how he ties color together throughout.  It was an important lesson.

After being depressed for months afterwards, I came to the conclusion that yes, he is and always will be a master at what he did because he worked with, like you stated, his own temperment and skillfully coupled that with mass skills.  And who is to say that each of us if we gave ourselves the chance if we too could not achieve greatness at what we set out to do.  I guess celebrate who we are and explore that instead of trying to be someone that we are not?  That is how I justified it in my mind and got me back to the easel :-)

The whole "celebrate the differences" philosophy?   I have Ken Auster's DVD.  I love his cityscapes. I have tried his method several times over the years resulting in a huge mess!  He gives a wonderful lecture about art and personality types.  His advice really didn't sink into my little brain until the third time I listened.  

I've always heard that writing is a way of exploring who you are as a person digging deep into those psychological aspects of our personality we so often bury.  I am quickly finding out painting is the same as well!  

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Jay Babina wrote
on 9 Jul 2012 2:50 PM

You paintings are beautiful and there's no rule that you have to have one style.

One easy way to loosen up is to paint plein air. Just use an 11 x 14 board or canvas and go outside for a morning. You'll be forced to capture the light and try to get something presentable finished. It will force you to be more suggestive and interpretive because of the time element. It's much easier to develop a loose style with a foundation of knowledge like you have than starting that way. Artist who don't have a foundation always have weak paintings unless they copy someone else's working style and subjects.

I think the great artists have the ability to show details and refinement when they feel it's needed along with a sense of expression when that is desired. Anyhow, nice paintings. If you work from photos alone, it tends to stiffen up artists in their desire to duplicate the photo in paint. Working from life makes you have to interpret what you want from what's there and a time element thrown in will definitely loosen you up.

 Learning and being inspired is one thing but copying someone's style is just unimaginative and self-defeating. Just let it happen. Desire is the basis for all change.

 

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KatPaints wrote
on 9 Jul 2012 5:14 PM

I agree Jay, Plein air is also excellent for experimenting. Since I paint 3-4 hours maximum, you need to get it down quickly and to the point. (It's amazing how bad days, aches, a disorganized palette and other stuff can effect what you do isn't it?) I also find doing quick 6x6 still life paintings for 3-4 hours (see/google daily painters) good at helping me hone into specific areas I'd like to work on or experiment.

I have also found working from life to be very valuable.

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ninelika wrote
on 11 Jul 2012 3:54 AM

I'm not a professional in this, and can not express my feelings with lots of professional words, But I found it just wonderful and loved it very much :)

 

 

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TJS1358 wrote
on 11 Jul 2012 10:13 AM

I would do plein air in a heartbeat but I can't. I have multiple sclerosis and I lost the vision in my left eye along with some other issues.  These two paintings are from a photo but my still lifes on my blog are not.  They are painted from life.

Plus where I live the climate is pretty fowl year round with high winds and pounding rain.  So the few plein air painters have to be pretty hardy to brave the weather with an extensive setup in the back of a van.  But when it's nice here? It's gorgeous:-)

Because I knew when I started painting if I wanted to paint something else besides still lifes, I did take pics of my setups while learning and constantly compared the scene to what I was seeing per my setup and camera and noted the  differences specifically in value for form.  There were a lot. And it took a lot longer to do the painting but it did help me with form although there is LOTS of room for improvement:-)

But regards to style?  I don't see anything wrong to looking for others whose works you love as a starting point?  And then go from there.  Sometimes someone from the outside looking in that is unfamiliar with your work can notice things that the person who created the piece can not:-)

So that's why I threw it out there:-)   If any of you have any thoughts on this knowing my limitations, I'd greatly appreciate it.

 

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Jay Babina wrote
on 12 Jul 2012 7:40 AM

Sorry to hear about your physical condition. You might be able to find places to paint from a window view. Not knowing where you live, there might be community buildings that you would allow you to paint inside there.

The most admired and copied stylists alive is probably Richard Schmid. Both his books "Alla Prima" and his Landscapes books are excellent. You can do a search and a lot will pop up.

 

Best wishes. The work you posted is beautiful - post more as you evolve.

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TJS1358 wrote
on 12 Jul 2012 9:44 AM

Thank you Jay:-)  I will look further into Richard Schmid. I have had some excellent suggestions here. Thank you again.

I've had MS for about 20 years and it only became really troublesome the last 6.  Painting is actually great for me cause I don't expend a lot of energy physically.  My battery lately runs low LOL.  Visually eye strain can be a problem especially with distances.  So I can either wallow in self pity or adjust.  I choose to adjust:-)  I'm too stubborn or just plain stupid  to give up (probably an equal amount of both). 

But like everyone else,  we all have challenges - some greater than others from the outside looking in - but challenges I think we need to push ourselves if we choose to take up the challenge.   

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