Personal Art Blog

Sharing the lessons I teach at the Artist Guild and the personal discoveries in my art.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Avian Architecture - The One That Got Away!

Sandhill Crane Nest
Oil on Canvas 48x36in
This is the large painting for my show which did not
make it.

Artist Note.
I know there are other artist who go through this ordeal
 - this is for them!

A bit about the real nest first.
This is a marvelous type of nest. The old reeds are pulled
and bent over to form the base bringing it gradually
up over the water level. This clears an area around it.
The new reeds come up through and around
the nest providing shelter. The nest the
ranger showed me did not have eggs so I researched
and found out they plop two or three eggs right on top.

Here is my struggle and how I unfortunately kept making changes...

The first stage completed below.
The idea was to let the paint dry then make subtle color changes.

I managed to use the fracturing technique and used
proportionally larger tools than normal for this
enormous canvas...remember I work daily on 8x6in.
When I left this to go to bed I remember thinking
of the small adjustments it needed and was quite satisfied.

THEN, in bed, the dreaded, critical brain started...

It is such a dark painting - why not place more light through the
reeds? Of course - this was a great idea and I got excited.
Up at 4:30 in the morning and started to
make the change below.

Then I saw the nest went all the way across and decided
it needed to change from this below

To this.

Then I started looking at the way the reeds hit the water.
They were like a giant scallion - whitish base with
many green fronds coming out of it. On the one below
several seemed to line up too much in a line.

So following my traitor of a mind, I made corrections.

Making each of these changes I found I was getting tighter
and tighter also making numerous little adjustments.
Two eggs not three.
Color changes
Each frond of the reeds started to get painted. Look at the first
attempt at how the reeds were suggested to the final one.
I was refining way too much - ending up with a painting
painted in a manner I did NOT want to paint in.
Does that make sense to you? Can you relate?
Every time I saw it I would make another change, and by
now all the fracturing technique and vibrant color had
disappeared. I knew I had to do something drastic to stop
keep trying to save it. So I put my razor through it.
A great big cut from corner to corner and with gritted teeth
I pulled that sucker apart and felt so much better after
doing it. Now I was free to start a new one.

Several valuable things I learned from this.
I was painting with a deadline for a show - never good!
I was trying to save a 40 buckaroos canvas - never good!
I did NOT do my usual mission sheet - never good!
I listened to a critique from someone who likes
photographic realism rather than impressionism. - not good.
(they LOVED the end result)
I fiddled with it way too much. NEVER EVER GOOD!
This one is the most important
I should always have some sense of "liking" a painting I have done.

My next one, same size, I like much better. I managed to keep
some of my fracturing style in it. This time I did my homework
and did my mission statement. I stopped allowing my mind
to think about it in bed.
It was finished in a quarter of the time the other one took. This time
I sent images to my daughter who is absolutely the  best at critiquing my work.
I am bummed about the grainy quality as my camera is in the shop
and this was my best shot with phone. Either I was too far away
because of the size or the lens must have had a film on it.
I will take another one when I get my Nikon back.

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  1. You have just reinforced what I've always known, but haven't always paid attention to: thinking is not good when painting. The more you think, the more you do and things get over done, under done, out of control. Not what's with a mission statement? I know (in my mind's eye) what I want on canvas--what's inportant--but I don't write it out or anything. Should I? --As far as a wasting canvas, just part of the activity--that's annoying sometimes. Sorry for your ordeal.

    1. Over thinking is a killer of good painting. I know it BUT....
      I try to always do what I call a mission statement. It is sketches and explorations followed by color harmony and reminders of end goal. Works for me.
      Your abstract is a stunner.

  2. I don't think the final painting was bad, just not what you had in mind. Question is what you have thought of it when time have gone and you could be more objective.
    I love both the final painting and the first draft, but I prefer where you were going in the beginning. It got more contrasts, had more drama and were a little less "romantic". Love how the blue shadows played against all those warm colors.

    I think that sometimes we think too much or are too stuck with the initial idea of how it should look. I just finished a painting, that in my mind was going to be a larger version of a smaller painting that I really liked. I don't plan paintings in details, the paintings evolve during the process. Since the painting took a different direction than I wanted, I was disappointed. My love came home and said that it was one of my best "bird's nest paintings" and after getting a little more objective, I rather like it.

    PS! It got eggs in it.

    Another PS! I am amazed how much research and planning you put into a painting.

    1. Hi Roger - I appreciate such good communication. It is great to read other artist's opinions, methods, and sharing of ideas. In this case the problem would not have arisen to the degree it without the deadline. Like you, my paintings usually take on a life of their own once I get to the middle stage. Sometimes I like it better and let it stay. Time away is always helpful.
      Looking forward to seeing the painting your love liked.

  3. Dear Julie, I understand that your painting does not met your expectations. But, as far as I can see from the pictures, it was not ... to destroy.
    It 'a mystery that sometimes things that we create there are so unbearable ... sometimes a strategy of expectation (also suggested by Titian), turn the framework for a bit' of time, can change things. Looking at the colorful atmosphere of certain details, I do not know if you've done well ... but the work is yours, art is your art, and therefore you are the boss and you controls on these things and you're right, totally!

    1. You are absolutely correct, Rita. If I had the time, turning it around would have been great but what I was doing was nibbling at it striving for something to save. Had to get drastic to stop that. Thanks for the support and input.

  4. Hi again.

    I also noticed that you changed the color on the egg from cool blue, light on water, eggs in shade with just cool reflective light to sun hitting the nest (warm colors on eggs).

    1. Little changes all over the place. Good eye, Roger.

  5. Another thing to remember is to always save the stretchers. If they are straight and solid they WILL come in handy again.

    1. Ah - good point and obviously you have done it too.
      I pass them on to the university students. They have to stretch their own over there.
      Enjoyed seeing your progress shots of the apple painting.

  6. Once again, valuable information. Thank you for sharing the process. I personally like the drama of version #1 but it is not mine, it is yours. Love the palette and am so familiar with those razor blades although my version is a simple palette knife. I did it again after class today.Painting gone. Love my instructor......she says my eyes are ahead of my hands. She gives me two weeks and I will be caught up. Whew.
    Love the nests, just love the nests.......

    1. Ah, yes...scraping is good. Mine had too many dried layers to do that. I loved the laugh I had a your teachers - eyes ahead of your hands.Such a visual!

  7. Julie, the painting was really nice but may not be what you expected it to be, loved the second version too. I think it was mostly the dead line that played culprit.Thank you very much for sharing this experience because I always thought I was insane each time when I went through this ordeal and I have gone through too many times! There is a valuable lesson that you shared, but the mind is so fickle, it acts up when not satisfied. Anyways beautiful job as always!

    1. I agree - it was the deadline. It was an okay painting but not how I want to paint anymore. That is as important to me as anything else. Good to know you go through it too. I do appreciate the complement, the understanding and the comment.

  8. Yeesh! I loved every incarnation of this piece, including the original that you began adjusting and correcting after a night of too much thinking!

  9. I am glad to the one the rare landscape painting.

  10. New painting is beautiful. Quiet tranquility. I love the subtle flecks of the waning sunlight on the water. I have also had a few canvases meet the same fate as your first piece...freeing, isn't it! :) I do keep my stretcher bars to mount a wood panel to or something. So far I haven't used them though. Take care Julie!

  11. I liked every version of this painting! But, I also have "been there" with your mind driving you crazy and the clock tick tocking away. Pressure and painting do not always mix.

    I wish you had stuck it in a closet, started on the new version, and then reconsidered the first at some later date. It was really a beautiful piece.

    1. If I had stuck it in the closet I would still have to deal with the true issue - I do not want to paint like that. I still shudder when I think I painted every reed. Yikes!
      Looking at your fabulous abstract. Now THATS painting!

  12. Julie, I can visualize the events of this painting so well after reading this. I see you at your easel whipping those reeds into place. Nests and that is probably where you went wrong...I think they would be REALLY difficult AND tedious subjects to paint...ESPECIALLY with a deadline! What a fighter you are though. It's just lovely.

    Sandhill Cranes are so amazing. They migrate through here in the Fall and are a very rare site. I didn't know that about how they make their nest. Miraculous!

    1. What a great observer you are - nests AND reeds. That is it in a nutshell. Only one can shine.
      Thanks Lisa.

  13. "I should always have some sense of "liking" a painting I have done."

    Ain't that the truth??? And amen to it! I couldn't agree more and even though this process happens and we hate wasting the time, it always helps to recenter us doesn't it? It doesn't matter either which changes I like or don't like, if you can't stand the painting in the end none of it makes a difference. Glad you got back on track:)

    1. Thanks for obviously "getting it." I am definitely getting back on track!

  14. Thanks for sharing Julie...I do not feel alone with this anymore! I have done the same things more than frustrating!!! Mine usually get binned or slashed...and I reuse the frame. I must say, I am getting a better at listening to my inner voice:)

    1. Me too - even with all the practice this one slipped through the cracks - for a while. Shame it was so large.

  15. Not only you can paint but you can write too ...I smiled at the narration of the different states of mind you had found yourself in!( hope this makes sense my english sometimes is poor)Monique

    1. Neat comment - thanks, Monique. Yes - it made sense. Very glad to know it made you smile.

  16. This is so beautiful, Julie. The light going through the reeds..
    is fantastic! Even though I work with pastels I enjoy seeing the process.

    1. Hi Hilda - I feel like it ended up like pastel with all the detail. Funny how I like detail with my egg tempera and not the oils.

  17. Awful ordeal, beautifully narrated. I recognise the situation from writing: the perfectionist who never got beyond the first paragraph for want of editing every word he wrote.

    Wonderful end product though, I'm really enjoying this theme of yours.

    1. Glad you understand the stress making it a true ordeal.
      Nicer still to hear you liked the theme. Thank, John

  18. Julie - I so appreciate you sharing your thinking (or over thinking process). The finished one is absolutely beautiful. What is more you are truly a talented artist because you knew you had overworked it and started over again. I think sometimes I can't see that is what I did. Thanks so much for being real. Have a blessed day.

    1. You are the lovely person who always sees the glass half full. It is a true blessing, Debbie.

  19. I love the first pic of the closup on the reeds before you changed it. Actually I love it almost as much as the Prism Pool - my favourite all time painting of yours. I think you should repaint those first reeds as a giant painting. Yummy!

    1. Alleluia - and thank you, Sea. Me too and I could never get it back.

  20. "Does that make sense to you? Can you relate?" Yes and Yes! The overdone thing is a specially of mine. I get cutting it up, it was a very brave mental cleanse. A letting go that you needed to start a fresh approach. This is one I won't forget, thank goodness you documented the stages for yourself and us. This shows you strive to only produce/show the paintings that you really love and what you go through to do just that! Thank you for sharing all that you do Julie!!

  21. What a lovely insightful comment and I thank you for it Gloria.


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