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Don’t Make It Too Precious

Here I go again.  Or restated:  some paintings just never seem to end.

Last month, I managed to do two watercolor sketches at the Art Students League that I really liked: Clown and Queen of Hearts.  While I didn’t think they were done, they were good enough for me to bring them home to work on in my studio.

Clown, ver. 1

Clown, ver. 1


Queen of Hearts, ver. 1

Queen of Hearts, ver. 1

Mostly, I thought they needed a little more oomph (a very technical term);  they were a little bland.  So I added some oomph.

Clown, ver. 2

Clown, ver. 2


Queen of Hearts, ver. 2

Queen of Hearts, ver. 2

At the moment, I’m really happy with Clown, but Queen of Hearts still needs some work.  Adding in the dark blue arc with the four lines on the left pushes your eye in toward the center but it’s too strong for the rest of the painting.  I’ll have to punch up other things to balance that arc.  And I think I want to make the sweep of some of the blue lines stronger to emphasize the flow through the painting.  Of course, that may create new problems.   And once I’m happy with Queen, I may look back and decide Clown needs more work.

Learning how to think about abstract art is proving to be a lengthy process that is both encouraging and discouraging.  It’s encouraging because I can see the progress:  there was a time not so long ago that I would have been perfectly happy with version 1 of both these paintings.  It’s discouraging because I am often so unsure of what the next step will/should be.  And then I’m afraid to ruin what I’ve already done.

In a recent demo at the League, Frank O’Cain created a charcoal sketch I thought was very strong, and then proceded to obliterate a significant part of it with white gesso.  For him, it was all about creating a problem so we could learn how to solve it.

What I have to learn is that there is no one perfect answer and all other solutions are wrong.  I have to learn not to let a painting become so precious that I’m afraid to try to improve it.  Then again, the challenge does keep me going.  It would be so boring if there were nothing left to learn.  (No danger of that.)

Posted by ruthhurd on December 13, 2011

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