Sunday, March 27, 2016

Abstract Painting: Pheonix Rising

"Phoenix Rising", 12x12" mixed media on canvas. Available. 

I have recently been in touch with an artist friend I haven't talked to in a while. He asked to see what I've been up to lately, so I sent him a few photos.

"What happened to all the colour?!"

Ok, so it's been a long while. I think the last time he saw my painting, I was working on my music series.  So yeah, this stuff is really different. My friend is a very accomplished artist. He shows across the country and his work sells well. If he sees fit to offer advice, I am going to listen carefully... and take notes. He recommended I work on my compositions a bit more, add some colour, maybe loosen up a bit with my use of line. All things I notice in other artist's work, but haven't been focused on in my own.  I've been so intent on how a piece makes me feel that I've been ignoring a lot of the design stuff I've learned over the years.

I didn't have to consider what he was saying for long, I knew immediately that he was right. I got out some books and reread the chapters on composition. I watched a few youtube videos on the use of value and design in visual art. Refreshed my memory on the "rules". Then I prepped a couple small canvases and got back to work.

It's hard to keep all this info in the back of my mind while I'm working. I've very much an intuitive painter. For this piece, I asked a couple local artist friends to take a look and offer a critique when I was at a mid-point, just to keep myself on track. That's something I miss about school... oh, not those scathing critiques where everyone in the room tells you how you totally missed the boat on this one, but the helpful, thoughtful comments that direct you out of a problem when you are stuck and ready to get out the gesso.

Most artists work in isolation to some degree. It's helpful if you have other artists around to bounce ideas off of, to share information, and to just talk to. But I've found that since I left school, getting any constructive criticism is extremely difficult. People are so afraid to hurt each other's feelings that they won't offer an opinion that could honestly help the other person improve their work. Even in a workshop environment, I've found that instructors are quick to point out the parts that are working well, but tend to avoid the part that isn't. Of course any advice has to be welcome and considerately given. Not personal or confrontational. If things are done with consideration and in the spirit of helpfulness, the whole critique process can be pleasant for all participants. And we can all learn to be better artists.

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If you are in the GTA, I will be exhibiting at Arts on the Credit, April 9-10 at the Waterside Inn in Port Credit. I'll have a whole pile of new work on display, along with 40 or so other artists and fine crafts people. It's always a good show.