I’ve been struggling for weeks with the latest painting of Pele… and when I struggle with a painting, I tend to put off working on it. I hadn’t touched it since March 22.
It’s her whiteness. White is difficult to paint (and sometimes photograph, as I’ve found out with flowers.) This current painting is on a black textured paper. I layered gray and some yellowish-tan for an underlayer to her fur, but I am fighting to get the white to be white. Every time I try to smooth out the white (I like smooth painting, even with pastels), the white wipes off to the gray layer or it just turns muddy.
On Saturday, I decided to spray the painting with a fixative to see if I could then layer on more white to bring out the brightness. Yesterday, I found I could add a thick layer of white, but once again, when I tried to smooth it out, it turned gray.
I’ve never been to art school. I took art in high school and throughout my long years, I’ve taken occasional classes – oils, acrylics, watercolors, charcoal landscape drawings. The charcoal morphed into pastel painting six years ago, which I love, love, love.
What the lack of “proper training,” means is I’ve developed my own style and technique. It goes along with a lot of things about me – I’ve always followed my own path. I choose not to do what many others do.
But there are times when my lack of proper know-how creates hard to overcome obstacles. Yes, I read art books on pastel painting, but some things just don’t seem to click in my head.
Like values. I understand values are dark to light tones, and I’ll even print a grayscale version of the photo to see that. But, for some reason, the minute I pick up a pastel or charcoal, my hand just starts moving, almost like something else takes over. I call it the picture painting itself.
Now I’m finding with painting a mostly white cat, it isn’t just about white. There are other colors underneath, especially in shadowy areas. For some reason, my eyes don’t see those other colors until someone else points them out to me.
For the most part, I work through obstacles, and most the time, I’m pleased with the final result. (Yes, some finished paintings are just so-so and go in a box.) However, seeing my better paintings hanging on the walls makes me happy. When matted, framed, under glass, and seen from a few feet away, they’re stunning. (Even if I do say so myself.) And yes, if I look too close, I can always see something that could be fixed… but I know many other artists who say the same thing. And why most art is viewed from a distance.
So, now I’m stuck deciding if I should quit or if the painting can be fixed. I have to get past the point where tears fall over it and I'm not feeling sick to my stomach that I've failed her.