Thursday, October 2, 2014

Limiting Elements and Subject Matter

One of the most important things I learned at the Ventura workshop I attended in August is that the more I limit the elements and subject matter of a painting, the more creative I become. A smaller focus really forces me to think of new ways to "talk" about a topic.

A couple of years ago, when I started my River Series, I limited my work to abstraction of nature and Oregon wildlife. This focus lead me to a higher quality of paintings and greater rewards in the competitive field of watercolor.

Life Cycle Imperative #3
30 x 22 inches
The series, Life Cycle Imperitive, that began in Ventura has limited my work even more. The elements of the last few paintings are rocks, salmon and salmon eggs/smolt/fry. The question I face with each new painting in this series is, "how can I express something new and different with these three elements and symbols?"

The last works I did in Ventura were very minimalist. The colors were subdued and they had an ethereal quality.

The new painting I am posting today has veered away from the delicate. I wanted to continue using the kimono composition, but make it more organic. I used rocks to form a redd (a spawning nest) with the salmon swimming above in an almost robotic fashion. The painting started with another water-like wash above and below the fish. When I was close to the finish, the painting had a very pastel look. It lacked drama and interest. Also, I was a bit surprised by how much realism I had put on the paper. I am much happier with a more stylized and abstract look to my work.

After some contemplation, I decided that getting rid of the pale background would make the rest of the painting "pop." It takes a bit of courage, but I took a pure black gouache (opaque watercolor) and painted the background a mat black. To me it created a much more dramatic and less realistic painting. It went from pale and pastel to eye-catching. Sometimes it pays to take risks and do something different.
Life Cycle Imperative #5
30 x 22 inches

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