Sunday, January 10, 2010

Analysis: Retraining Needed!

I wasn't able to finish the family portrait I started in California. It was an interesting exercise, working on a strict deadline for a painting. I haven't done that since college. Come to think of it, I don't think I ever finished any of my oil paintings then, either. This painting probably needs another week of work in order to be presentable.

The frustrating challenge of this particular painting turned out to be the faces and hands. It took me a while to figure out why I was having such a difficult time. I can draw faces and hands perfectly well. I can paint faces and hands in watercolor just fine, so long as the color is essentially an enhancement of a drawing. I can depict three-dimensional objects in oil paints, from buildings to pottery to a certain black and white cat with no particular difficulty. But close-up views of faces and hands was proving impossible as I worked on this painting.

I finally understood my problem when I worked on my cousin Lucas's face (the one sitting on the floor). Drawing and painting access different brain functions. The Ingres/Delacroix feud over line vs. color has new meaning and a deep resonance for me. At this point, I'm not sure which approach suits me better, or if perhaps I can create a blend of their philosophies.

While working on Lucas's face, I tried to think in terms of three-dimensional modelling that I did eons ago in clay. It was a strange experience, pushing myself to use my sculpting experience and ways of thinking to paint a face, but it seemed to work. I wasn't able to sustain it, so my uncle looks a lot like a muppet.

It was very disheartening to realize that I don't currently have the skills I need. Or maybe I do have the skills, but first I have to retrain my brain to stop trying to draw when I'm painting.