Painterly Challenge

I have been doing underpainting on two canvases. I like to paint on site but that is not always possible so I gather photographic reminders. I rarely sketch or draw on my canvas except to capture rudimentary placement of forms. I do however routinely start with an underpainting which gives me the beginnings of depth and positioning for the development of the painting. Underpaintings are kind of like looking at an ultrasound of a baby in the womb when you don’t know the parents… not very interesting. So if you find this post rather boring – I won’t be offended. Come back tomorrow. It will be something different.

You may wonder how I choose what to paint (besides the obvious of a theme for solo Exhibition Sea, Land and Time at the beginning of September). Long ago I decided that rarely would I paint something that I felt I had fully captured with photography. My painting in is an intuitive relationship with my subject. I want to give to the painting something beyond what is in the seeing. In addition to a compelling subject, I also decide what to paint by choosing a painterly challenge – something I want to explore or a skill I want to strengthen.

For “Sea” my challenge is to be able to create depth in the water while capturing the waves on the surface… I want the viewer to be able to look at the painting and feel as if the water is still moving, wave after wave. Starting with an almost blank canvas, I begin.

Stopping as the underpainting becomes too saturated to allow new colours and shapes to emerge without erasing earlier ones.

With paint still palette, I decide to begin a second underpainting for “rocks and mussels” to address the challenge of giving bulk to something that is dark on the top and light on the middle and bottom… the mussels are added in to keep me amused and give me a break when the rocks become tiresome and frustrating.

I am reminded of a passage in Emily Carr’s painting journal on July 27, 1933 where she writes:

“Oh, these mountains! They won’t bulk up. They are thin and papery. They won’t brood like great sitting hens, squatting immovable, unperturbed, staring, guarding their precious secrets till something happens. At ‘em again, old girl, they’re worth the big struggle.”

My rocks are only little sitting hens – but getting them to “sit” is still my end goal. We shall see over the weeks ahead what we can do with them.

Sprout Question: What specific creative challenges are you setting for yourself right now?

Bonus: An interview with me posted today by Stacey Curnow at Midwife For Your Life Blog “Walking in the Sunshine of My Soul: Special Shoes Not Required.”

© 2010 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

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From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada