Monday, July 30, 2012

So what's up next?

    I decided on a whim to grab a number of portraiture books form the local libraries. One that was of particular interest was "Portraiture From Life in 29 Steps", by John Howard Sanden. I know this book has met with a lot of critical flack for his self-promotion of his own paint line and such, yet other elements of the book really got my thoughts moving!

   One thing that struck me was his apparent devotion to Christianity; he thanks a bible study group for their prayer support in the acknowledgements at the front of the book. Another thing that moved me was the vivacity with which he attempted an initial painting. Granted, he contrasts his under-two-hour studies with the full-blown portrait, but I thought, how smashing would it be to throw down a study in 2 hours in full color to work from? Not tiny sketches and little value and color studies, but a real "first draft" as it were, from which the work can only get better? Better to create something temporary to face criticism than to finish a work and have the sitter declare it utterly unacceptable.

    I like to work at lightning fast speed, capturing and image and adding flourishes in 20 minutes or less. When working with colored pencil, I find myself discouraged because of how long it takes to lay down an image. I have a very busy life with four little people living under the same roof and another on the way. It daunts me to think of endless repeated sittings of 30- minute snatches of time in which I can only hope to complete one or two layers in a mere section of the work. I find that many artists circumnavigate this particular challenge by simply waiting 20 years or so to start their art career in earnest so that there are no more little people afoot.

   I don't personally claim that route. It sees to me that God had a purpose in affirming me in the arts soon after I arrived in my new home-state and I want to follow that road wherever it leads.  The whole point of pursuing mastery in colored pencil and not some other medium, is to be able to deliver these tools one day into the hands of the battered woman seeking refuge in a shelter, to the war-torn youth in a third-world country, and to anyone else for whom the passion of art beckons while circumstances endeavor to forbid expression. If I can master this medium with no formal instruction and in adverse economic conditions, I can confidently empower those who do not have the luxury of paid instructors, sprawling studios, or easy access to a myriad of supplies.

     Imagine the runaway girl on the subway, with 5 pencils and a scrap of newsprint, being able to create something that can mingle with character, determination and prayer to catch the attention of a university arts program. Imagine a Liberian boy who knows no trade and has none to teach him, but with skills he attained from a missionary with a few bright sticks of color, begins to make colored pencil paintings with few colors, but with passion in his heart that tell the story of those around him with candor and strength that become a commodity that lifts his life and others out of the most dire poverty.

    A lofty goal, but it can never be realized if it is never pursued. So what is up next? The exploration of solvents. I need a way to push tone across the page with urgency. Perhaps for major works I'll still depend on the slow-circle application method with much painstaking layering. But for now, I will attempt to apply the Sanden method of oil painting to colored pencil work. This will require a way to quickly lay color, and I believe a solvent is the key element to this speed. I do not, however, own any mineral spirits or Turpenoid. What can I use? Right now I am experimenting with rubbing alcohol, nail polish remover and makeup brush cleaner, or RA, NPR and MBC for short. Thus far I favor the MBC.

     As I am refining my drawing skills and developing my own individual color palette, I am going to attempt to push for speed. A finished rough draft in 3 hours, and later in 2 and at last in a single hour or less is a goal I deem possible. It is said that Peter Paul Ruebens was a painter not only of great feeling and energy, but also perhaps the fastest painter of his time. While I am working in a dry medium, I continue to look to the successful painters of antiquity and modern times as the standard to which my colored pencil work shall aspire, rather than the newly popular photo-realism. I aim to steer almost completely away, within the next three years, from using 2-D media and second-hand reference to inform my compositions. Just as in songwriting the admonition is to "write from what you know" likewise an artist's indigenous scenery should be sufficient to develop his eye without turning to those images that have already been interpreted. I do not seek to make admirable copies of the work of my fellow creation, I seek instead to be instructed by the hand of the one who originated creation. Until next time, to God Be the Glory! I'm out.

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