Monday, February 7, 2011

Painting from memory

Memory Sky
8x6 inches - oil on canvas panel

After the last two paintings, both of which were a bit labor-intensive, I decided to take a short break and go back to loose and fast.  I spent a few hours yesterday with my sketchbook doing small studies of photos I've taken, including desert animals, some cloudscapes, Utah landscapes and even a few from my imagination. 

For this painting, done last night, and at least one other I plan to do today, I decided to try something different:  to try and work from memory, rather than relying directly on a photo during the painting process.  I did a thumbnail sketch, made mental notes about the clouds, their masses and color nuances, and the basic colors of the land.  The photo is one I took on our summer '09 trip to Durango, along the venerable Hwy 160, near Kayenta, during our drive to Phoenix.  The sky was filled with beautiful monsoon type clouds - very Maynard Dixon-like.  I took this photo, knowing I'd paint it one day.  

My goal for this study was to work quickly and not get caught up in an exact "likeness", but to rely on my memory studying the photo and experience painting skies to see if I could make it work.  After I'd finished the painting, I went back and looked at the reference.  There were a few things I didn't like about my memory version, so I adjusted those quickly.  Then, it was done.   No fussing or tinkering.  

I found it a great exercise, and I'll be doing more in between the regular paintings.  Good to mix things up in the studio; it helps prevent stagnation and the inevitable periods of burn-out.  Another thing I did differently for this was to use the tip of a disposable wooden chopstick to sign my name in the wet paint - worked like a charm!  

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