Art has become fun again in recent days. For a while, you see, I’d been struggling with my oil painting. I was beginning to feel that I was a real failure. Fortunately, I intuitively understood the cause of my distress. I’ve been in a transitional place with my art, learning new techniques, discovering new ways to approach each canvas, finding new methods for applying my paints, and along with all of that, I’ve been developing new aspects of my own reflective style of landscape painting. And while gaining new knowledge is a wondrous thing, there’s always a gap for me between getting information into my head and seeing it produce the results I want. It’s not enough to know what to do. It takes lots of practice for me to turn that knowledge into something useful.
I’ve been learning about intuitive art, about self-expression, about groping my way through darkness — as I did throughout Inktober — and a lot about meandering through an image, allowing my imagination to come more fully into play, and letting the paint itself become a part of the creative process.
All of that is a long-winded way of saying that I’m learning to paint more loosely.
For me, it’s a process of developing artistic vision. Maybe others are born with it. I wasn’t. It’s been difficult to teach myself how to see beyond the realities of things — trees, lakes, hills, rocks — to get to a more imaginative vision composed of many different shapes and colors, lights and shadows.
Here is one recently completed painting — Woodland Reverie — where I feel I succeeded in sharing an artistic vision.
I wanted to show a dream-like quality about these woods, and I wanted an almost surreal feel to the earth itself. I wanted the painting to feel a bit fluid, as though the scene might change if you turned away then looked back a moment later.
One thing that has helped me greatly, I think, is that I’m seriously playing piano again. Now this might seem a bit off-topic, but hear me out. I spend hours each day practicing — everything from Bach to Bartok with lots of Beethoven in between. As with art, it is the impressionist composers whose works I most enjoy, yet all of music is a useful adjunct to visual art, I think. Music allows me to feel, to imagine, to trust my own interpretations. Much of this then carries over into my painting.
Visual art shares many common elements with music, and I tried to incorporate a few within this Woodland Reverie. Even the title of my painting comes directly from my love of music. One of my favorite piano pieces to perform is Debussy’s Reverie.
Within my painting I have places of legato phrasing — long smooth strokes — along with short staccato notes to add a bit of tonal contrast. I think my painting also has rhythm and balance.
What the painting lacks, however, is more contrast between light and dark. That’s an area I continue to work on. I tried to add more contrast, but each time I placed a black or white (or nearly so) pigment, something within me rebelled. I didn’t want those stark differences. As a result, I have a painting composed of middle values. I suppose that’s much like confining a melody to a single octave on the piano, or playing a piece without adding any dynamics of piano — soft — and forte — loud. I wanted dreamlike — the meaning of reverie — but maybe all I got was boring.
I question, too, whether or not the painting has a real focal point. Landscape paintings, I’ve been told, don’t have to have a specific focal point, and maybe so. But am I using that knowledge as a way out? Could I have improved this painting by creating a more definite point of interest?
Please share your thoughts about this painting and my move toward a more impressionistic style of landscape art. I’m intrigued by the new pathways I’m following, and I’m excited to see where my artistic wanderings will lead me.