When I began this little acrylic painting on panel (14 x 11 inches) it looked quite different. I liked it but I knew I didn’t like it enough. So I decided to rework it. The still life table had changed totally so that meant incorporating it into the new still life stuff — hence parts of it had to be completely repainted. Had no idea how that would go, but I’ve been experimenting with acrylic, so I figured there’s no better way to find out than to just do it. Here’s how it looked before:
Since I switched to using acrylic paint, I have had Matisse in the back of my mind. For a long, long time I have wanted to experiment with the “fauvist” ideas that Matisse pursued in his very early career. There were certain still lifes that I have always really loved — especially certain dark and rather chaotic ones — that seem to hold such fertile material in them. Matisse chose to take his art in a different direction, but I have wondered what his painting might have been like had he followed the murky fauvisme instead. And it seemed to me as though he left that trail there for others to explore ….
These are just two examples, but both reveal the dramatic lighting, murky passages and rough manner that Matisse explored.
So I have some projects planned that will pursue darker tonality, rougher and broader kinds of drawing and exaggerated color, but even in a small work like this painting of the little black pitcher, I have been trying to get at a more instinctive handling. I find that some sources of interest for me are all the myriad color changes to be observed on a small scale between objects, as in passages around the perimeter of the orange, or between the orange and the lemon, or in between anything and anything. Such observations in realist painting aim to get at the true appearances — and oddly enough I am striving for a true effect also. And yet my picture doesn’t become realist. It’s an odd paradox that Matisse explained as a parallelism — that you are aware of always wanting to get at some truth of perception but it is nonetheless an image that is “parallel to nature.”
The details are really important and for me they’re where the real action is.
I don’t know how much I’ll work on the painting, and I like all these passages, but they can be further developed as readily as the whole painting itself was open to reworking.
Each section of a painting can become like an independent composition. And as your attention focuses on different parts, it’s like these “independent compositions,” can merge and shift constantly.
I am also developing more latitude for abstraction or accident in the paintings. Some things happen that turn out to be interesting that were never planned. I have always been aware of such passages as I paint, but I never completely let myself just leave them or let myself develop them ….
A passage like the one above which depicts a bit of drapery can become a great place for observing small color differences. I just painted this green part broadly to cover up what was there from the earlier version, but it’s definitely a passage to exploit going forward.
I am keeping the process fun because I have a tendency to freeze up at various junctures along the way. So in contrast to past habit, I am telling myself that I have permission to pile on as much paint as I please. Also I know that I’ll never learn what this medium is like if I don’t try out lots of different approaches. Painting lots of layers over others is just “one of the approaches.”
I like acrylic because its fast drying time makes experiment easy. You can paint pretty much as fast as you can think. It can wear you out. You can paint as if you were digging ditches so it can be “hard work” if that appeals. Or it can be very whimsical and free. Certainly you can allow yourself great freedom regarding drawing since you can always immediately paint over anything that you perceive to be “a mistake.”