Thursday, June 3, 2010

Stand Up and Get to Work!

I used to paint in oils a lot and my paintings got bigger and bigger. Then I started working in gouache in an attempt to do more sketching and experimenting instead of the very finished work I was doing on canvas. When I moved house, I had an attic space to work in but it wasn't very big so I opted to continue in gouache as I really didn't have the space for backing up and looking at my work (plus the smell and mess wasn't working for me either).

So I began painting in gouache on paper at my drafting table and worked smaller and with more detail. I painted a series of paintings of views of the airport and this style captured these moments. It worked. Eventually I found myself hunched over my paper on gouache going further and further into details. But I wanted something different for a picture book text I wrote and have gone through a series of attempts, trying to recapture a looser feel that I felt the story needed and that I'd be able to carry through 32 pages.

My last blog post shows one of the character studies from those attempts. I wasn't happy with the work then I began thinking about oil painting. I've realized that I miss the physical aspect of working in oils; standing up while I paint at an easel, moving in front of the painting and backing up. I decided I just had to stand up and paint in gouache over my drafting table. I'm using bigger brushes and a kid's set of big gouache pastilles on regular old sketch book paper. The big tools make it hard for me to get into details. The thin paper forces me to not go back in too much because this quality can't take too much going over. And standing up keeps it big: gestures, modeling. I'm physically engaged with what I'm doing by backing away.

It's harder to do tiny details standing over a piece of paper with a big brush. I was especially tempted to sit down for the little girl's face but I had to resist and I'm glad I did. I'm much happier with the result.

I think backing off and restraining our need to tweak it just a little more is important in lots of aspects of life. Writing while standing might be a bit much but perhaps the same idea can be applied by writing uninhibitedly: no editing that first draft until it's done and been left alone for a week or so. Or writing in a notebook outdoors instead of on the computer in the office for a change.

Now I'm going to get up and get some work done! What do you do to shake it up and push it to the next level?

D'abord, je veux m'excuser pour le dernier blog où dans mon hâte j'ai oublié d'écrire un petit mot pour mes amis francophones.

Aujourd'hui, je voulais simplement faire voir encore mon travail de recherche des personnages. J'ai changé ma façon de peindre un petit peu, secoué mes méthodes afin de faire ce que j'ai envisagé. Les habitudes s'installent et parfois j'ai l'envie de m'en débarrasser donc au lieu de rester assise à table de dessin, je me lève et je peins debout avec les pinceaux plus gros et la peinture en pastille énorme (destiné aux enfants) avec un nombre limitée de couleurs. Je utilise un papier de bloc sketch. Comme ça, j'arrive de porter les gestes moins minutieux, de limiter les détailles et d'éviter le désir de faire les images trop réalistes.

Qu'est-ce que vous faites pour remuer les automatismes dans votre travail ?


  1. I totally agree about being able to walk around when you paint. I recently got a wooden stool to sit on and feel like I am always too close or too far away. Also, the palette is never in the right spot and I just waste time. Also, if I have a tiny brush in hand, I tend to paint the whole darn painting with that tiny brush. Big brushes make for more expression. Now lets get to work...

  2. Hi! I studied oil painting at a University. Now I paint with Acrylics(like gouache). No smell is good. And it is easy to use because it is used with water. I want to stand while painting too. I need a tall easel.

  3. Hi Juriko! I haven't used acrylics very much but have a little. I love what you do with them. I should try them out again soon.
    Thanks for stopping by!

  4. This is familiar - I have an irresistible tendency to edit instead of completing my first drafts, and focusing on detail in my painting. It's hard to know when to stop. There's a point where some instinctive flag pops up - Arretez! Great idea to step back for a fresh vantage point - whether writing or painting. Speaking of fresh vantage points - love the painting at the top with the girl's feet.

  5. Right now I'm at the point where I need some shaking up. I think this next week I'm going to do some timed writing prompts that have absolutely nothing to do with what I'm working on. I need to stop focusing on producing and start focusing on "creating."

  6. Hi Megan,
    Arretez! is right! It's a struggle at times but can bring about better outcomes & heightened productivity.
    Thanks for stopping by.

    Hi Julie,
    I hope your week is turning out well. I wonder if your writing prompts worked out? And yes, indeed focusing on creating; letting new things happen in our work without the nagging concern to churn things out. So true yet not always easy to achieve.

  7. Hi Dana, love your work! The airport scene has such a sense of adventure about it. And love the little girl at the bottom of the stairs. So charming! I wish I had artistic talent.

  8. Thanks so much, SP!
    I love your Harry Potter blog; very interesting, insightful and thorough.

  9. WOW! I really like the air plane painting! Thank you for telling me about gouache :)

    1. You're welcome, Erik!
      And thanks for stopping by and commenting. I'm glad you like the airplane.