Saturday, October 23, 2010

Four Corners series - #26, 27 & 28

"...Nothing is less real than realism.  Details are confusing.  It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things." - Georgia O'Keeffe

Back in CT, I was at our local library escaping a particularly miserably hot and humid day this July, reading a book of Georgia's work, when I came across this statement.  I wrote it on the back of a receipt, which miraculously didn't get tossed out for the next several months it rode around in my purse.  After reading this great selection of quotes on fellow artist Casey Klahn's blog, I was inspired to find it and post it here.

These words really struck a chord with me when I read them, and now that I've relocated the quote, I should write it in big words above my studio, particularly as I paint this Four Corners series.  Today, no paintings were completed - I worked instead on sketches for the next three in the series.  Two are complex - loaded with lots of shadows and interesting shapes, but a tad overwhelming in some ways.  How to distill them down to the bare essence - to select, eliminate and emphasize, as Georgia says?  That will be the challenge here.  It may not work; we shall see.  It seemed easier to do with the earlier part of the series, but now, the land is growing in complexity, and the canvases are growing in size.  I've often thought, and still believe, it is far harder to choose what to leave *out* of a painting than what to put in.  Anyone can copy a photograph, and while I can appreciate the skill that goes into creating photorealistic works, it's not ever the direction I want my landscape paintings to go.  I was, and still am, fully capable of making a drawing look like a photograph.   Exacting, time-consuming, good way to develop drawing skills, but the photo does all the thinking for you.

Looking back on my life, I've never done things the easy way, or started out gradually when embarking on a new hobby or venture.  My very first backpacking trip was a 21-mile, one night trip along one of the rougher, steeper and more remote trail sections in the Grand Canyon.   It took 7 years of medical school and a residency, and 8 years of struggling in private practice to get to the point I'm at now:  retired from medicine, and emerging on a hopeful career path as a successful artist.  I'm sure most art instructors would recommend starting out with some simple still life studies when beginning to paint with oils on canvas...although I suppose that now having 25 paintings under my belt makes me not so much a beginner anymore.  But, I don't want to paint still lifes, at least not yet!  And, I like challenges.

These are the next three challenges.  Given the success I had with "Painted Desert #2", I'll probably stage these similarly - two layers of color.  And try really, really hard not to get caught up in too much detail.

#26 sketch - 9x12 



One of these three images I love so much that I have decided to do a larger version in pastel as well.  I'll leave it to readers to guess which one it is.  I have to make sure that I even have the colors I need before I begin, though.

This late afternoon's sky.  I love my 18-70mm lens!

Perins close-up

Snow and fall color dichotomy

Smelter Mtn and Perins with clouds


  1. When I am referring to photos, I draw thumbnails. More pattern sketches than anything else. Then I post them around the studio, letting them percolate.

    Maybe I'll work on a simple, full sized pastel but as a sketch. I'll tape it on the window. I'll leave the photo on the CRT and do other stuff.

    Finally, my last effort will be from memory, with all of these impediments removed.

    I'm glad you put that G.O. quote up. I think it will stick with me, too.

  2. Hi Casey - my method for this series has been in some ways similar, in that I've gone through the photos several times since I took them, and there are those that I knew I had to paint. They resonated with me for a variety of reasons, and most have been intuitive choices, rather than those carefully selected for their composition, values, etc.

    Once I've chosen them, I do spend more time analyzing them as abstract forms and observing (and pulling from memory) the forms of the land, and then my approach to the painting. In some cases, I change my mind after considering other options.

    Now that I've moved to bigger canvases, I'm being more selective, but it's still based on what I'd call "gut appeal", which of course has its basis on elements and composition that at least I find appealing, along with the emotional element.

    I'm glad you liked the O'keeffe quote; I'm not sure why short quotes like these can be so inspiring and helpful, but they are. I will certainly post more as I find them.


Your thoughtful comments add value to this blog - thank you so much for taking the time to leave them!

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