Sunday, March 11, 2012

Mini 32

Miniature #32 - March 5 - 11, 2012, 2.125 x 3.25 in, oil and pencil on paper
This week was my "Spring Break."  I did fun things like clean my house and go to the car wash (which actually is one of my favorite things).  I also got some sci-fi from the library, planted flowers, and tested a new cookie recipe.  Most importantly, I decided to "go big" this week on the mini and try to make a completed oil painting.  I worked on paper so that I could have the support prepared early enough in the week to work in layers with the oil paint, and I also painted and toned the frame to complement the painting.  

Miniature #1 - July 24 - 30, 2011 3.5 x 2.5 in,  oil on paper board
Since mini 32 is a female figure in a landscape in oil paint on paper, I thought it would be a good time to reflect and look back at mini 1.  While there are always things I'd like to improve upon, seeing the two together, I think that I've come a long way.  Some of that has to do with the materials, and the way I'm using them - I applied the details in 32 with the tip of a needle - but some of it is comfort with the tiny scale.  I feel the drawing is stronger in 32 (and I like the micro-birds too - I saw a funny sketch about how to make anything decorative better - add a bird.  It was meant as a joke, but it's sort of true - birds are a useful compositional tool :) ).  

I had plenty of time to reflect on mini 32 as I removed debris from each layer of varnish with a pin (oy).  Something about it had me thinking of Sir Joshua Reynold.  Now, I like Reynold's paintings in the sense that I like lots and lots (and lots) of paintings, but his work is not really on my list of "favorite things," so I was ruminating on what it is in the mini that had me thinking of Reynolds and why. I think I eventually figured it out (did I mention that there are at least 5 coats of varnish?).  I used graphite more heavily in 32 than I did in 1, and that gives the painting an underlying grayish-ness.  Reynolds had a very "experimental" approach to his materials and techniques (when a patron complained to him about one of his paintings cracking, he famously responded: "all good paintings crack."  While this may be true, I would argue that the fact that he was referring to his own recent work is somewhat problematic.)  Anyway...he used a lot of fugitive pigments, especially reds and yellows, which have faded over time, revealing more of the tonal under-painting.  The net effect is that many of his paintings have a grayish-ness, like mini 32 does. Maybe it was thinking about the changes in Reynold's paintings over time, or maybe it was having a different schedule or changing the clocks, but somehow, I came back to thinking about time (again).  On the one hand, in studying and writing about art history, I'm always looking back at the past; on the other hand, when I work on the minis, I have to be completely focused in the moment.  I'm starting to wonder if by working on the minis, I've been trying to teach myself "Presentness," and, if so, is it working?