|The Yellow Umbrella, Galle Street Market, Sri Lanka. Pastel on paper|
Monday, 9 September 2013
PAINTING - IS IT ABOUT THE MARKS?
I have been thinking about why it is that I have no problem making my landscape scenes look loose and impressionistic, but cannot seem to work in quite the same way with other subject matter.
Here is a typical garden scene of mine:
and here is a woodland scene:
I am sure you can see the similarities.
Now look at this ....I feel it looks as if it was painted by a totally different artist:
I believe that this is because when tackling a landscape or garden scene, I give myself permission to be much more relaxed, and "loose" in terms of the marks I use. Particularly where foliage is concerned. After all, foliage in general would look stiff and wooden if I painted every leaf carefully, or every blade of grass. So I automatically use a loose and sketchy method of approximating foliage. BUT when faced with the shiny skin of cherries, the hard texture of glass, and the problem of getting the elipses of a glass correct.....I tighten up, work more slowly and carefully, and do not give myself permission to work in the same way at all. My marks, in fact, become a secondary issue...I find myself trying not so much to make marks which suggest my subject, but instead, I try to make my subject look as good, as correct as possible, regardless of the marks I might use. Here is another which looks like it was painted by a totally different artist, imho:
This sometimes is a frustration to me. I WANT to combine good drawing with freer, livelier mark-making. I set no store by a "photographic" result - if I wanted that kind of total perfection, I would simply take a photo! I want my painting to look like a painting.
So, after a period of tossing these thoughts around - I tried really hard to combine the type of mark-making I might use to suggest foliage, with subject matter which contained no foliage at all. The items on the market stalls are handled mostly with simple strokes of pastel ..looked at closely, there is little literal information for the viewer, beyond simple strokes and marks. I just painted the shapes I could see when I squinted hard...I did not try to paint dresses or bags - the marks just suggest them. I freely admit that the figure is more carefully and tightly painted - but give me time...perhaps I might eventually be able to realise a figure with the same freedom of mark-making as the background here. That is the intention anyway!
I was quite lucky in that the umbrella threw a shadow onto the lady's bare skin and head...and as she was a dark-skinned Sri Lankan lady, that meant that those dark tones "melted" into the background better than if she had been very light-skinned.
Painting not just about capturing a wonderful scene...it is ALSO about making marks, on a surface, with pigment. Artists don't grow grass, they suggest grass with coloured marks on a two dimensional surface. Do you ever think about the actual marks you make, and whether the visible brushstrokes, or strokes of pastel, really help you to achieve your painting ambitions? Or do you just concentrate on making a tree look like a tree, a glass look like a glass?