Completing a Good Start
After you have applied the first few layers of paint do you ask: What to I do now? Does your critical mind say, I’m going to ruin this if I continue. I’m going to lose the good bits! But also you recognize it is not finished. What to do? Recently a participant in my July workshop (I’ll call her”J”) was in just this quandary. She was so discouraged that she left behind her great start, a piece on MDF board and told me I could work on it if I wanted.
So over the last few weeks, I have been doing that with this blog in mind. Below is my process for finishing what was her in fact good start. The important message is: What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail? “Failure is if you don’t try.
I don’t have a photo of exactly what her piece looked like when I started. I honoured her request not to photograph her work. From what I remember, she had textural shapes in 3 of the centres of interest of somewhat equal sizes surrounded by turquoise edges. Step One: I added white line work using a caulking gun. This was to run the textural bits off the edges and to connect them. I wanted to have the eye move easily around the whole piece from lower left, to lower right, to upper right and upper left.
Step Two: After our workshop, I again attended the fabulous 5 day long Pontiac Art Residency up in the Outaquais, PQ. I took J’s piece thinking I might get to work on it. The residency uses the talents of both paid instructors and guests who are also instructors in their other lives. When Marg Grothier, a guest artist instructor needed an incomplete work to demonstrate on, I lent her J’s start. Here is what she did. Using her favourite colours and a vertical format, she applied the paint thickly and randomly mushing it around with her whole hand so there were no hard edges. She did not try to complete it.
Step 3: Marg’s earth tonres are not my favourites. No apologies. we are all different. So when I got it back, I painted over her reddish browns with red, disguised her greens and yellow oranges in the same way. I added in some turquoise in the centres of the textural shapes. I saw that it was too uniformly one value, so I added some lighter reds.
Step 4: Next, I added the black shapes to give it very dark values. The 3 black shapes in the lower right ensure that the eye moves to that quadrant before continuing up to the little dark shape in the upper right. The line work which started off as while is now dark as well.
Step 4a: I flipped the piece upside down. It works as well this way. This orientation allowed me to see that the turquoise passages at the edges were taking the eye out of the picture plane. I knocked back their intensity with a thin wash of the complementary colour. The pillars got a touch of turquoise as did the roundish shape at the now lower left.
Step 5: I decided to leave the orientation as it was in step 4. Am I finished? I decided the piece was bright and too red. It needed more dark values. Since I am so close to finishing, I added a layer of gloss medium, so that whatever steps I do after this can be wiped off either with water if still wet or with isopropyl alcohol once it dried.
Step 6: This step took a lot of courage. I added a thin layer of black gesso wash in a cruciform compostion. The rounded shape became Kokopelli, the ancient piper from the Sedona caves. I added a grid pattern with black and then with white. It looked too dark so I added back some light highlights with liquid mirror. I didn’t like what urned out to be the “x” shape for the cruciform.
Step 7: I was not happy with the darkness. So I removed the black with alcohol. It didn’t all come off. I subdued the white grid and some of the liquid mirror. I made the big black post into a cactus, didn’t like it, and took it out, first with gesso and then with more red. It is not over until is it over!
Step 8: I added some more light passages, more black grids and named it Ancient Peoples, 18 x 24 in, mixed media. It reminds me of cave drawings in Arizona.
I think it is finished? Whew! What do you think? Feedback would be much appreciated.