Breakthrough … I think
It was Thursday evening at the Art Students League and I had just started my second abstract sketch of the model. She was a great model but my sketch seemed destined to be like my others: a little too mechanical for my taste.
A friend in the class had mentioned that in his Tuesday night demo Frank O’Cain had said that he was not abstracting the model, but rather abstracting from the model. Since I was clueless regarding what that meant, she explained that Frank uses the model to create the general lines of the painting and then simply finishes the painting each stroke dependent on the previous ones. In other words, after the initial composition is determined based on the model, the artist doesn’t need the model. In fact, Frank told her she could step down once he had the initial plan for the painting set (in his mind and on paper).
So … I looked away from the model and focused on my sketch and tried to continue it just based on what I thought it needed. Better, but still no cigar.
Then I happened to look at the work done by the artist standing at the easel behind me. She had gotten frustrated with her own sketch and had impulsively smooshed it all over with a paper towel. Since we are working with charcoal and pastel, that had pretty much smeared it. Then she was adding more color over the smear (pronounced schmear). The result was dramatically better than the original.
So… I smeared my sketch with a paper towel and started over. The result was both simpler (irrelevant lines were eliminated) and more complex (you could still see some of the original drawing underneath), and the colors were much richer. Plus, since I suddenly wasn’t worried about the result since I was working on top of a failure, I was freer to just improvise and … Ureka! It worked. Damn! Who’d a thunk it?!?
Thanks to the help from my fellow artists, Thursday night’s class yielded three significantly improved sketches and a way of working that looks promising. I’ll show those sketches to Frank in next Wednesday’s class. That’s the acid test.
I live in hope that I will master this abstract thing within my lifetime.
And my hair is still curly.