Disaster. That about sums up the third of Bert Seabourn’s summer classes for this artist. (not pictured here) Last night was our first foray into abstraction – the kind of abstraction that is done by intuitively placing colour and form around a canvas. Cue the horror film music.
I already suspected I had an issue with intuitive painting, but this experience confirmed that I’m not good at painting without some kind of idea in my head. Sitting down in front of an empty canvas and pushing colour around at random was a similar experience to listening to fingernails run down a chalkboard. I need to start with something. I ended up with a humiliating field of mud spread evenly across my canvas from scraping away multiple unsuccessful attempts. If dung beetles were art collectors, I’d be a star. I was completely psyched out. I left that class in frustration. Trying new things can teach you as much about yourself as about your skills.
It was made all the more difficult to swallow because I did accomplish a style busting portrait of the Warrior (above) for class just the week previous – a real step forward into something very different for me. We were given a small (5″), very pixelated photocopy of an Indian warrior. In spite of the terrible reproduction and a violet colour cast across the entire picture, he was haunting to look at. It turns out the image was of a highly realistic painting by Mark Rohrig. (See the photo of the reference below).
I had no idea of the source most of the time I was working on the Warrior. I just went off in my own direction using the image for the general features and began to do something I never do – break up brush strokes and not blend the shadows on the face. It was very exciting.
I’m not altogether comfortable with using art or photography that is not either my own(best) or in the public domain(ok for photo reference). Unless the new work ends up very different or is educational/non-profit (fair use) like this one, it isn’t a good idea to use copyrighted work. I believe that if you plan to sell that work later, it is best make sure there can be no confusing the reference and the painting. I may be too rigid in my interpretation, but better safe now than sorry later.
Some may say I did a totally different style of work here from the original, but I am not convinced that it is different enough. So, this one will never be for sale, however I did learn a lot from it. I will definitely try again, possibly with a historical image. Bert makes up his own faces. Apparently, so does Mark Rohrig. Perhaps, someday, I’ll be able to do the same, but I imagine that will come only after many, many faces.
Real learning is in trying on everything you can. I’m going to attempt another abstract, of course. In the meantime, I’d love to hear what you think.