Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Connie Kleinjans fine art, Wrench, 18x24,oil on canvas

18x25x0.75", oil on canvas

I think I've started a new series. I blame the book Expressive Drawing, by Steven Aimone. At his workshops, he has an exercise where the students alternate between these activities:
  • Automatic drawing: With large pieces of paper stuck to a wall, the students take a drawing tool like charcoal, conte crayon, or brushes, and they do automatic drawing. It looks a lot like scribbling in the samples in the book.
  • Painting over: At some point, Aimone calls out "Obliterate!" or "Veil!" The students stand back and take a look at their painting, then take a brush and white paint and start going over parts of it, leaving what they find intriguing or satisfying.
Repeat. As Aimone says, "...keep this processing of things going until nothing else occurs to you to do—or until you really love what you see."

I decided to do this in oil paint. I got out a canvas and my oil sticks, set up some brushes and paint thinner and color shapers. And I started scribbling. I went on pure impulse for color, scribble patterns, pace, and all that. When I felt like it, I switched to the paint and thinner. I went back and forth arbitrarily and capriciously until it felt done. Until I had no more to say. Behold the outcome.

So, what did I learn?
  • It's fun and really instinctive. Felt right.
  • And yet, you do end up following guidelines for composition: focal point, contrast, color identity (more on color identity below).
  • Oil sticks can make cool marks. Scribbly, like crayons.
  • So can color shapers. I need to get the narrow one.
And I like this painting. Mind you, I don't think it's "pretty." But there's something organic and energetic about it. Authentic. Loose.

I've been doing more paintings in this format, with mixed results. There was one where I tried to be impressionistic, tried to convey the feeling of a sunset. But it looks too contrived. I keep trying to go into a painting with an intent to convey something, and it doesn't seem to work. There's some sort of connection I'm looking to find, and can't seem to make it work. Maybe I should just surrender to the process.

Anyway, I'll be posting more of these.

OK. So, earlier I mentioned "color identity." It's that theory in art where a piece needs to tell you what it is. In regards to color, it means you need to identify a dominant color. If you don't establish one, people will find the painting lacking, and might be confused. And not in an interesting way.

And my thanks to Rebecca Crowell for things I learned in her workshop last year. Certainly I had never used color shapers and oil crayons before, but I also found myself making marks in other ways that we used in the workshop.

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