Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Art Is Often About Problem Solving

Problem solving is part of the fun and often frustrating part of creating a painting. Today I will try to run through how both fun and frustration entered into the process of of this painting, "Pondering."

The Constant Gardener

Problem 1: What to paint. I so enjoyed the painting I completed prior to this one, "The Constant Gardener." I liked the idea of shared space for figures, and the challenge of creating a high key painting. (high-key image consists primarily of light tones, without dark shadows.) So I began thinking of the possibilities of painting another shared space. I had taken pictures of some of my family out by our back pond and decided that would be just right for the shared space idea.

Problem 2: Composition. How could I arrange these figures around the central image of a pond? I pulled out my photos and enlarged some, flipped some and began to arrange them onto a full sheet of watercolor paper. I also used just a bit of an underpainting, leaving a lighter cruciform (cross shape) to later guide my composition. Why? a cruciform allows the viewer to come into the painting from all four sides, plus it's just a thing us artists do and like to talk about (lol.) The blue figures are created using a masking film to protect the figures while allowing me to paint the background more freely.

Pondering: Beginnings

Problem 3: Painting by glazing and imagining a background scenery. It is not my usual way to apply a light color and then layer over it until I get a suitable amount of color on a painting. But if I am not experimenting and pushing myself out of my comfort zone, how will I learn?

Pondering: Be Gentle

Problem 4: Creating stonework. So where are my figures sitting, and what surrounds the pond itself? For this, I used both reality and imagination. In my photos, all figures were sitting on a small rock bench my husband created at the beginning of our shelter at home period. So how could I seat them all in an understandable way while continuing the pastel colors of the background.

Pondering: Settling in the Figures

Problem 5: Yikes, painting the water. After several attempts and scrubbing the paper raw, I was discouraged. How could these people be "Pondering" and ugly pond? Then I had an Ah-Ha moment. I thought of the suminagashi marbled paper I created a year ago or more.  I pulled it out and decided it might add a very different feel to the painting.

Of course I had to consult with a friend about how to do this. Liz Walker has worked with collaging marbled paper for years and I figured she could instruct me over the phone, which she generously did.

Problem 6: What to wear. After painting the skin on all my characters, I wanted to cloth them so that one stood out, while the furthest figure faded away a bit. The man? Jeans and tee-shirt made it easy. I worked some color into the pond and covered up most to the stains left from my failed attempts. I gave the closest figure a small pile of rocks, with one in her hand to create a little side story. I thought I was done, but . . .

Problem 7: Splitting the painting in half. As I looked at the finished piece in a thumbnail photo, I realized I had done a big no-no. The upper part of the painting was entirely cut in half! So back to the table it went. I reworked the trees to the right and decided that background needed a bit more interest. 


This was quite a personal journey in just one painting. It took much longer than most of my pieces, but to return to the beginning, problem solving is part of the fun and often frustrating part of creating a painting. I learned so much about the application of paint and my own ways of creating. The success of this painting is more about the learning and adjusting and perseverance than the painting itself. 

As always, your thoughts are welcome and appreciated!

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