Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Gorge Beginnings - #28 in FC - CP series

Finished yesterday evening, but too late to take photos, is #28 in the Four Corners road trip series.

This is one of those paintings that I was not really excited about working on as I wasn't overly enthused about its progress.  But, I also realize that I need to work-work-work and paint-paint-paint, even if it means a less than 100% inspired session.  I've had my share of unfinished paintings or projects that sat, uncompleted, because I wasn't happy with the progression, or grew bored or otherwise lost inspiration to finish them.   For much of my life, I've been a perfectionist, and that quality is in many ways a serious detriment to being an artist...or a good artist.  Part of my focus and approach to art now is to let go of the idea that everything I do has to be perfect, because that is an unrealistic goal and ultimately sets one up for disappointment and true failure:  giving up completely.

As much as none of us like to admit it or acknowledge it, or how hard we try otherwise, not everything we create is always a success.  I've read about more than one hugely successful artist who has been painting for years admit that he or she has created some paintings that simply did not work.  It's so easy to get discouraged by these paintings that came up short of our expectations, but as with everything else, it's best to maintain a healthy, rational and realistic perspective.  So, instead of seeing them as failures, I see them as necessary practice and a learning experience.  I do spend a bit of time analyzing things that don't work, and trying to figure out why.

Anyway, here's the painting, finished unless I decide to tweak some of the things I don't like about it at a later date.   It's not abysmally bad, but the completed painting is not what I'd hoped for:

Gorge Beginnings
9x12 - oil on canvas

Titled "Gorge Beginnings", because it is at this point on the drive that you get to see hints of what awaits:  the Colorado River Gorge.  These small side canyons are deeply-incised through what is the top layer of rock throughout the entire Grand Canyon - Kaibab limestone.  Its erosion pattern almost never forms slopes - only cliffs, with these small side drainages rapidly forming long pour-offs and deep chasms that are impossible to descend without advanced technical canyoneering skills and equipment.  

I love these intriguing gateways to the Grand Canyon, the cracks in the rock that start small and rapidly become big, all heading for the same final destination.  This is what I wanted to achieve with this painting; I'm not sure if it works.   I did simplify the detail of the rocks along the edges, but perhaps they are still too busy.  

I was having problems getting values dark enough for the proximal shadows, so I added Asphaltum to the palette.   It's warmer than burnt umber, and makes a nice chromatic black when mixed with ultramarine blue.  I'll probably keep using it when I need to make some really deep shadows for foreground areas.  

One of the issues I have dealt with since switching to these canvas panels is that I do not care for the woven surface texture.  It creates an undesirable drag on the brushes, and often the paint doesn't lay down like I want it to.  So, I suspect this is part of the problem.  If money was no object, and I was regularly selling these paintings, I'd probably go with oil primed linen canvases.   I have taken the batch of cotton primed canvases I have and coated them with two additional layers of acrylic gesso using a palette knife, and I think this will help.   I purchased a gessoed Masonite panel, and the next painting will be on that.  Given the expense of those, I'll make my own in the future if I can find a local source of untempered Masonite.  

Back to work!


  1. Putting an extra few layers of acrylic gesso on top always helps. The more the better. But I have to say, oil-primed linen is sooooo nice to paint on. Do you know the history of the pigment Asphaltum?

  2. For the years I did the mixed media sculpture, this was never an issue (usually an airbrushed acrylic underpainting), but dealing with canvas is a whole new thing. I know I'd love painting on oil-primed linen...can't afford to now, though!

    I know nothing about the history of Asphaltum; I'd never heard of it until I saw it at the art store in Boise. Is it bizarre or bad?

  3. Just sent you a few emails on Asphaltum. :)

  4. For what it's worth, I like oil primed cotton canvas as much as oil primed linen. I think it's really all about the priming and of course, heavy cloth. But of course, oil primed cotton is DIY.

    Sonya one small mantra if it helps is to 'never let the perfect be the enemy of the good.' Because of course great paintings only come after a lot of mediocre paintings. Sounds like a great trip!

  5. Lisa - thanks much for your comments! I am definitely interested in painting on an oil-primed surface after reading others (including yourself) enthusiasm for the surface.

    And yes, I was told by one of my attendings years ago in my other life, and something I've never forgotten: "What is the enemy of good? Perfect" . It's just that frustration of wanting to run up the learning curve rather than walk it ;).


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