You asked and I have been thinking this over and over so I'm going to talk about what the process has been with the latest paintings.
For probably closing in on a year now, I've been doing the 'canvas a day' thing, principally with watercolours, due to space/time/money restrictions. Also I really like them, and I love the discipline of watercolour, they are utterly unforgiving. Utterly. They make acrylics seem positively playful by comparison and oil pastels are a day at the beach. That and the clean-up with watercolour is a piece of cake.
I did start to crave stronger colours though.
Then we moved and I got some space.
I can leave work out and work on it for longer.
I started working with a variety of layerings on paper, using a wide variety of papers. I started with the heavy gauge (and very expensive) watercolour paper, and then during the move I found a stack of hand-made papers of different weights, styles and colours. I started playing with those, and found their transparency tempting and started layering them over other papers with prepared backgrounds, like the explosive oil pastels that appeared a while ago.
This seemed, however, fundamentally unsatisfying. The underpainting was subsumed and the over painting was occluded as well. So I moved to creating a textured base and then adding material directly on top. In the midst of this I went to the Barceló exhibit and got a few ideas fed.
I got so I was fairly satisfied with the backgrounds; they vary wildly depending on the paper, and what it calls for, the materials I feel like using, or that I have the time to use, and the mood. I work on background till I am happy with it. Just playing and layering and layering till it looks good, with whatever calls my hand at the moment as I gaze at the paper.
I then puzzled over the drawings to put on top. Nothing had called to me. I am, as I stated in the last post, reading Possession, which I am sort of enjoying more now. They are...possessed (what a surprise?). Every character is obsessed by writing, by words, and by their power. Words and grammar and language also forms a large part of my life, between the three languages I teach and study and my love of reading.
But text on the page doesn't fill me with anything at all. Like bad children's stories that insult the reader with their obvious - and frequently obnoxious - moral. It is so dictatorial. (No judgement there, huh?) Sorry, to each their own, but I don't like being told what to think or how to interpret a work.
¿Letters alone though? I have also been listening to versions of cuniform writing being read on-line, and we went to the science museum here and they had some ancient manuscripts as well as a jar printed with cuniform writing. It is beautiful.
This beauty is in our letters too, but we don't see it for the words.
So, out came the handy-dandy mac, and the font book. I found one I liked and blew it up as big as it would go. I used the shapes of the letters, sometimes part of one, sometimes some parts combined as a basic contour map and interpret it onto the base I have created. Then I paint into the resulting shapes. Sometimes densely, sometimes in layers of glaze (I kid myself and think of Rothko). It depends on the piece and background, the shape of the letter and the mood, also available time. A certain amount of experimentation is still going on, but I really like them.
I also prefer to mix the colours directly on the paper some of the time. I like the immediacy of it, the spontaneity and feel of it. I also really like the near sculptural nature of thickly applied acrylics. Makes me think of my some of my grandmother's earliest paintings, where she is very nearly carving into the paint, and I compare it to some of the later works which are sparely applied. There are artists now working both ways. At this point, I like the thick play of the paint.
I like the multi-layering, I love hiding things in the layers that no one will every find, or someone may. I love the geographic shapes that appear, the monstrous looks of some of them of how weird and lost the original letter is. I am working on a much bigger one which will come further apart once it is completed. Something speaks to me about the abstraction of the letters and their isolation. I am no realist at heart when it comes to art work.
One doesn't naturally think of writing as a visual art, and the blackness of the letters over the colour of the painted paper appeals to me, like I am making the letters into the negative space we normally find surrounding the letters and writing in that negative space. An unwriting, a stealing of writing into the visual arts, a deformation of the letters into un-letters and playing with that. Does that description go too far? Still, it is an element, even if it is getting very late and I am sounding a wee bit obscure.
So that's how I got here, and how I'm doing it at the moment.
I've got 13 in process today, more time, with
four five of those 13 finished so far.
I love it, and I'd like to thank you all for the positive feedback!