Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Video: Painting a Chicken

First - boil two quarts of water...
Here is a video of me painting a chicken. This video is too fast to notice, but as I was putting the final touch on the beak, a drop of turps ran down off the collar of the brush onto the canvas and I had to spend another fifteen minutes fixing it. Enjoy!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Art Lesson: Creating a Sense of Space

This is Flood Plain, a painting I am working on. This is an oil painting of the flood plain of the Mississippi River located in the St. Anthony Falls gorge which stretches from downtown Saint Paul to downtown Minneapolis. This specific area is on the eastern bank, just inside the Minneapolis border.

As mentioned in the last entry, I am trying to combine two techniques for painting. One technique is linear in nature and the other is more traditional in its approach to color and the representation of space. I need to beef up the more realistically painted tree (I will call him Oliver) in order to balance with the strong contrast of the drawn trees.

In the image above, I have put Oliver in place, but have not gotten into details just yet. I feel at this point that Oliver needs more contrast in order for him to stick out and have a sense of realistic space. Contrast is the key to realistic space. I have decided to paint the background darker in order to have Oliver's light-catching leaves stand out more.

In this second image you can see the trees across the river have been darkened and some details have been added to them. Their forms break down into large billowy shapes of very grey-blue green. I have also lightened the water considerably in order to make even more contrast and a sense of space behind Oliver.

I will now let this backdrop dry before I tackle painting Oliver again.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Art Question: Dealing with Transitions

This is a painting I am in the midst of discovering. As I transition into a new technique with my work, once in awhile, I come to a crossroads where I am not sure what is next.

I originally painted this entire canvas with the appropriate background colors for the different elements; grey-blue-green trees on the other side of the river, blue sky, blue water with some shadowy areas, green grass and purpley and pink sand areas. But, in keeping with my new direction, I wanted the trees to be lines drawn on the canvas. Once they were in, this seemed a bit boring and ineffective. I decided to have one tree painted realistically for contrast. This also seems to symbolize my own transition away from my formal painting background to a more symbolic and abstract technique.

I began to fill in the background with a solid color so the trees will feel more like a drawing. In the process, I changed a few things that bothered me: the base of the clump of trees, edges and the handling of bark. Now this is starting to feel better. The added simplification of the drawn tree area adds more pressure to convincingly portray the realistic tree. The contrast in painting styles means both styles will have to be strong enough to create a balance. I have a fear the realistic tree could look too painterly or too weak in terms of contrast.

I will deal with the realistic tree this weekend. In the meantime, I am not happy with the color of the background I painted today. It needs to be cooler and slightly darker. I was painting into yellow paint that was still a bit wet - this added warmth to the background color in some areas. Oh well, I will repaint it again later, but at least I know what I want now. As it is with any crossroad: make an educated guess, walk down that road and be ready to adjust.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Self-Transendance and Beauty, Part 2

Having been feeling a bit un-unified in all of my many activities lately, I have been looking for something to help move me forward, to help me find more meaning in what I am doing. Finding meaning in my activities has been helped tremendously by a concept of Victor Frankl's, as presented in his book Will to Meaning, published 1969. The concept is called dimensional ontology. Ontology deals with questions concerning what entities exist or can be said to exist, and how such entities can be grouped, related within a hierarchy, and subdivided according to similarities and differences.

Having read Frankl's definition, I realized that all of my activities make sense to me, as individual activities, but as a whole they are not ordered or grouped in a way that makes any sense to me. But then he had the following diagram in his book on page 23.

Basically, Frankl talks about how an object in a higher dimension can look contradictory in a lower dimension. For example, a cylinder, if viewed in two dimensions from a side view-point, will look like a rectangle. But if it is viewed in two dimensions from the bottom, it will look like a circle. A rectangle and a circle are contradictory, but they both describe a cylinder.

Perhaps my activities are like dimensional ontology. Perhaps what looks like several different activities actually reflect one activity or concept in a higher dimension? If I were to add up all of my activities; painting, writing, Art Dandi, coordinating gardens, coordinating public art maintenance, starting an education department, seeking local food access for the city I live in, fixing up my house, fathering, friendships and family, what do they all reflect in a higher dimension, from a broader perspective? An unruly mess. :P But as I look more closely I start seeing a larger concept of creating environments where transformation can happen. I am not focused on what elements create transformation, i.e. knowledge, time, physical growth, communal growth, etc. But I am very concerned about transformations happening. One form of transformation is self-transcendance. Another larger concept I see is the creation of beauty and beautiful things. Beauty creates transformation within an individual or group of a kinder, more compassionate way. Even a way of transcendance. So, I am beginning to understand the broader themes I find in my life. Like a child flexing its muscles until it can control what it is doing, I am building upon my life experiences to create environments for transformation, environments for self-transcendance.

These ideas have helped me to organize my life in my head, now I'll see if these concepts hold up when I apply my hands to them.

What's beautiful in your life?