Tuesday, September 9, 2008

State Fair (Step by Step on poor painting decisions) nfs

September is my favorite month. It ushers in relief of the humidity and heat of the South and my birthday always falls in the week of the North Georgia State Fair. Last year my husband and I were delighted to have such a beautiful evening to stroll and take in the sights and smells of the fair and we both took lots of photos. Kenn's photos were by far the best and I've wanted to paint from some of them for the longest. With this year's fair just beginning this week, I thought I'd have some fun and try depicting that wonderful evening and neon!

Poor choice no.1 - Choosing to attempt this much detail on a 6"x 8" rough canvas panel. The last time I used this RayMar panel ( which is supposed to be their "smooth" panel) I hated it and had a very similar outcome. The choice was made because these panels were the only ones I had in my studio that were larger than 5"x 7" or 6"x 6". I think these panels would be good for loose plein air work, but not the kind of work that I'm attempting. Carol Marine uses these panels and has beautiful results with her bold , very loose contemporary still lifes.

I chose this photo (not a poor choice) and thought I would attempt a loose and impressionistic painting to capture the the mood of the darking sky with all the colorful lights and moving crowds. I covered the canvas panel with 2 coats of black gesso, knowing that this has been a successful ground for me recently on other surfaces and because it was a nocturnal theme ( I love that word- nocturnal).

Poor choice no.2 - I made a detailed drawing on the dry gesso. This set me up right away for a tighter approach to the entire painting. Making a drawing in itself is not always a bad thing. It allows one to work out proportions, perspective, and composition and is often necessary when one attempts a very complex painting. But for me, I allowed the drawing to have me forget all that I've learned this year. I didn't think about shapes, I was painting objects and people and buildings. I was basically just coloring in between the lines. I made some changes from the photo, like removing a figure and adding the swinging ship in the background, but I was "copying" a photo. I wasn't asking any of the questions one should ask oneself in the painting process. "What is the focal point, what are you trying to communicate to the viewer, how can I say more than the photo, etc?". Well, some of them I did ask, but just to make a good "copy" of the painting. I was careful to get the values correct- where are the darkest darks and lightest lights ? Is "this" darker or cooler than "that"? - and so forth.

Poor choice no.3 - Because I wanted the bright lights to be clear and bright and as intense as possible, I decided to paint in the neon and lights first right on the dried gesso. This worked as far as giving me the intensity I wanted, but because I painted individual bulbs, I was further insured to have a very tight painting far removed from my original intent. This obsession with painting light bulbs continued for a full day if I remember correctly. By this time, I realized that the painting was not going to be loose and impressionistic, realism was the change of plans.

Poor choice no. 4 - I was going to keep at it until it became a wonderful master piece. I think this is where I should have given the canvas a toss, but I hate to leave something unfinished. Many times one gets that feeling at the halfway point in a painting when doubt sets in. You keep working and the painting begins working again. I was hoping for that moment. "Just keep working a little longer and things will come together". Things were coming together alright. The painting was not loose and impressionistic. It was not a good realistic painting. It was a Grandma Moses painting without the price tag! Ugh.

Poor choice no. 5 - was to spend yet another day trying to MAKE it work! It thought that all it needed was to soften and blend edges - to make the lights glow and soften the amateurish, hard edge quality of the whole painting. That helped a great deal, but alas, I could have completed two or three other good paintings in the time I spent on this pretty fair and unsuccessful piece.

I had great hopes for it, you can tell because I took WIP shots.
So I thought I'd share my three days of work (not entire days!) with all the world to see. Maybe some poor artist out there will relate and find solace.
If anyone wants six 6"x 8" RayMar canvas panels, let me know. LOL

Note: My reds in the neon area are much more intense than seen here, but when I tried to match the painting with photoshop, the figures in the foreground became too warm and lost their correct value and coolness.
You know, the painting looks better at this small size.... I'm still wishing.

Click on image to enlarge.


rick nilson said...

Focal point. If you gave the guy selling corndogs a name tag. Maybe something like Montgemery Cliff, then I would think this was "Raintree County" or something in that style. And then some girl would have a big diamond on her finger. That would be Liz Taylor. Focal Points. Mostly I like to paint on things bigger than postage stamps, you should try it. I like the painting, but then, I was a Carney. I guess you are were the Mark.

Jennifer Young said...

What's with all of this artist cruelty lately? Must be in the air.

I think it's a delightful little piece. I do not see it and think "mistake" at all. Okay, so maybe it wasn't fun for you and you learned some important lessons, but it's still pretty impressive that you tackled this on a 6x8! (I'm getting a hand cramp just thinking about it.)

From my perspective, I do see a focal point--the colorful Baker Foods stand. The eye zooms right to it, as this is where the most contrast is (at least from the photo). In fact, if I squint my eyes, most everything turns to black but this.

The swinging ride to the left and the echoing arched lights to the right lead the eye around the painting and back again to the stand. Likewise the diagonals in the sky and the figures serve to lead the eye to the stand and frame it. There is activity in these areas, but they work because they are treated in dark, muted colors so they don't compete with the focal point. The only element that I might eliminate or tone down is (possibly) the two lights in the upper left corner. All of the other lights seem to me to be working in unity with the brighter food stand.(But that is such a subjective thing and I'm only going by the photo.)

But overall, I say bravo!

p.s. So it's neither impressionism nor realism. Welcome to my world.

Debbie said...

Marilyn, I think you've done a great job on this painting. I do understand how you feel though, having the painting come out differently than you had imagined it, but you really handled a very difficult subject very well! You should give yourself more credit!!!!

Marilyn M. King said...

Rick, I'm glad that you like the painting. I'm sure it is because it is not fruit and vegetables. But I did slip in potatoes and apples!

Jennifer, you are so kind to give such a thorough and thoughtful critique. I'd been given the assignment by another artist to make a second post of the finished painting and "sell" it with positive comments. It looks like you have done all my work for me and there is nothing more to say! :o) Thanks for the uplifting accolades. I did vacillate on the decision about the light in the left corner. I dimmed it, removed it and put it back. I wondered if it draws too much attention or if it balances the arch light on the right.
note: I read Carol Marine's recent blog too!

Debbie, thanks, you are not the only one saying this to me, so here goes...Bravo Me!