Friday, March 7, 2014

Thick and Thin

The more I paint the more I learn.

I realize this is a no-brainer and yet I am usually amused at what I learn day to day.

Recently I had a collector call about a painting. They inquired if it had texture or bold brush stokes, which is hard to tell on line.

I gave this some thought and remember back to the first time I saw an original Scott Christensen painting. I had seen his work in print but never an original. I assumed they were very painterly. So the first time I saw an original I was amazed at how they were very fresh, lush, and flowing and yet the paint application was held to a minimum, not thickly painted at all. I was a tad bit surprised.
This did not diminish my admiration for his work what so ever but it was a surprise.

As I look through my Russian books and marvel at their application of bold confidently painted paint I began to question my own work.

I have always admired an artist that is able to apply a stroke thick or thin as long as it was confidently placed and not mushed around. So many years of reading and admiring in person Sargent's work and his use of transparent backgrounds definitely creeps into my mind while working, and believe me I know it is always better to have a balance of both thin and thick paint.

While working on this Italian scene I was fascinated by the variances in the stairs be it color, value, and temperature and as much as I could have painted them thickly I was amazed at how they came together and stayed seated when the paint was kept thin. This allowed the linen to give them a sense of reflected light and natural qualities that I feel would have been lost with a thicker application of paint as well as the reflection of that thicker paint. Even within the light passages, the old adage of going heavy and impasto for your lights has fallen short in my eyes.
I really enjoy how much the canvas will reflect the light when it is kept thin.

With that said, I will continue to push on thicker paint when it is necessary but also appreciate the thinner passages without too much contemplation.

It may all still stem back to my watercolor days and yet maybe it is just my way of seeing the world.


Jose De Juan said...

Nicely put. Sometimes I feel a thicker application is a "race to the fixing" when a thin application might have done greatly if left alone and letting the canvas peek or illuminate back. I also find myself bringing back the "canvas white" in the studio just so that I can recover the luminosity of a glaze gone bad with paste. This requires some might discipline as it involves ruining the painting for the moment so that you can come back when it is dry. Of course, outdoors this is almost impossible unless you paint i several sittings.

Ken DeWaard said...

I hear ya Jose, it'd be nice if I could just Command Z it and be back to the good spot before I beat the hell out it.