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The Bridge between Painting and Photography

The bridge between painting and photography is becoming blurred and I think we should welcome this evolution. Photographers have become more adept at modulating common images. They can subtly overlap images, juxtapose photos, give them an appearance of movement, fade and blurr photos to the point where they barely resemble the simple, fixed photo.
This may be an attempt at abstraction, or sometimes just to see what and how an image can be bent and changed. Whereas photos naturally tend to be more incisive, more specific or more detailed, this process of abstracting an image in the dark room or now with photoshop is bringing the two disciples much closer together.
There are some painters who take photos and place them within the painting. This kind of interplay sometimes works well to enhance an image on canvas. This bridge between painting and photography will no doubt continue to be explored. The photographic image in the hands of a professional can in fact resemble a good abstract painting. This kind of creative effort is invigorating for the broad art scene in general but also opens up possibilities for the individual artist.

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A Difficult Painting

It is not unusual to wind up with a painting that becomes extraordinarily difficult. Sometimes as artists we try something new and we get half way and get stuck. We are just not sure how to proceed – we are faced with a difficult painting. When this happens it is best to put our brushes aside and to rest on it for awhile.
After a time pull out that painting and have another look and ask yourself what is it you are trying to do? What mood, what effect?
Try to establish a basic, fundamental direction for the painting.
WHen I have a difficult painting – one that I am just not sure about, I will attempt to get one small area of the painting right. This may mean getting a particular design correct, or just the right hue or shading but get it just the way you want it. Be very satisfied with that one small part. It is surprising how a painting can develop once there is one section that is done perfectly. All the other parts can then begin to relate to that first successful area.

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Developing Concepts

What can be more fundamental in any artistic endeavor than developing concepts?  This represents the beginning, the essential kernel that spawns the artistic project.  However I feel that artists are stymied when their concept (however it is conceived) is not fully developed, either emotionally or visually in the case of the visual painter.  All of my articles are essentially about the visual painter as artist but it is quite easy to see how many of these written constructions also relate to the other arts such as music, dance and sculpture.  We begin with a concept and then the process begins with developing those concepts.

In my own case I rarely am fortunate enough to begin a painting with a fully developed concept or idea.  There is a germ, a spark, a feeling but this is often all we can go with.  We have to rely on that to begin.  We have to believe that this small spark of an idea can lead us into a finished product, a painting.  The process of developing a concept is however quite different than the actual process of completing a painting which is I think, often misunderstood in the art world.  Gerhardt Richter has a very large, expansive studio.  His process is to take a ‘so-called’ finished painting and bring it physically in to another room.  This room is uniquely un-cluttered and separated from where the painting had been conceived.  In the entirely new environment Richter will study the painting on and off for sometimes several weeks.  He studies it to ascertain how technically this painting should be completed, what nuances should be added, what tones need adjusting, if the painting ‘works’.  Most of us do not have the space or opportunity to remove our painting in to an entirely different environment for study.  The point is that the initial thrust of the painting strives to attain the concept.  The second part of the work is done by technically bringing the painting to its full completion.  Shapes and forms may have been articulated but in the second part of the painting’s development, those shapes and forms should be carefully delineated and the brushwork refined.  

This refinement is noticeable in Kandinsky’s work.  Each shape is technically refined and beautifully rendered.  In the developing concept this would have been impossible…it is enough to get the concept down in terms of location, design and coloring.  The second part of the process is necessary to bring the painting to its fullfillment.  In my own experience this is best done by studying it a week or two after the painting had been initially developed.  It is very rare when I find a painting that does not need further attention.  Elements inevitably need modulating.  Perhaps the best example might be the sculptor who works with the chisel to establish the basic shape of the form.  He or she gets it quite close to the concept or idea.  After that, however begins the long, tedious work of sanding and refining the various shapes.  Without this final attention the work is not truly ready, not truly finished.