Friday, September 21, 2012

Waiting and sketching

I've had an eye problem all week that's meant lots of time in doctors' waiting rooms. Waiting is not something I do well, especially when my schedule is hectic as it has been lately.

However, sometimes it does give an opportunity to sketch and observe human interaction and behaviour.   Today I learned that men become babies in the face of illness and women wait it through stoically.   Now I know that is not always true form for everyone, but it was interesting to observe. Every male that came through the surgery sat, head supported in a hand at some point; slumped, sighed and twisted themselves into contortions in a chair, while the women sat and read, looked off into space thinking or chatted to their neighbour.

I know some people have a fear of sketching in public places, especially places with a doorway as the only means of escape!   I have never had anything but good response to sketching for those who are even aware that I am doing it.  I try to be an unobtrusive as possible with no huge sketchbooks and elaborate numbers of pens or pencils.  I carry one sketchbook in my bag or pocket and a pen or mechanical pencil, nothing more elaborate.  My sketchbook is usually hard covered and black, 5 x 7 perhaps.

I don't make eye contact with the individuals who I sketch, who are usually unaware that they are under scrutiny and if they look up, I move on to the next person, til they resume a position and I can finish a sketch.

In settings with lots of people, I may do full body sketches or just heads, scattered all over the page so there is no composition, just mark making.  Sizing is all over the place and all I'm interested in is fitting a face in a space.  After all, sketches are not designed to be a complete drawing, more of a snapshot of a moment in time.

So today, I sketched various people who passed through the waiting room, in various moods, most faces registering the boredom that can only come with overwaiting.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

When to wipe?

The inspiration that we have for a painting is something that may be fleeting initially.  A glimpse of movement, a flash of light, a colour contrasting against another - they spark off ideas that build in our heads until we have to get it down on paper or canvas.

Of course there is where the treacherous road begins.  Sometimes the inspired idea flows off the brush as if it has a life of its own.  Each stroke is genius, each colour perfect, each value precise and it all falls into place easily.  Then there are other times when the vision in our head doesn't flow as easily onto the support.  Brushes become clumsy tools, the paint colours aren't right, the values look amateurish.  Where is the point of no return?  When do you admit defeat and wipe the canvas to start again?

Each of us knows when we produce good work and as intuitively we know when we're headed down the path to mediocre or bad work.  There comes a point when looking at what is produced so far, considering time invested and the potential for success, you know a decision must be made whether to forge ahead or cut your losses and run.

Most paintings go through an ugly duckling stage.  You know it.  Its when its all gangly legs, big head and clumsy feet, but you know that if you push through, it will emerge on the other side transformed.  You also know that sometimes the ugly duckling will never fledge.

That is the case with this painting ghost.  I started with promise then the greens monster attacked and wouldn't let me find the right greens for the riverbanks.  The gods of water refused to allow the surface to reflect the wetness of the river.  I knew it was pointless to continue and wiped the painting.

The support this was painted on was new to me,  Ampersand Artist Panel with a canvas texture, that to me seems more like stucco than canvas and I'm not sure if I like it or not yet.  Perhaps that was part of the problem.  The wipe back left some paint in the pockets of the texture, giving a ghost-like appearance to the remaining surface, like a softly coloured underpainting.  I think I will try this again and see if the next version can overcome the brain/reality challenges and meet my vision.