Saturday, August 8, 2009

Improvisation in Greens

Today just didn't work out for any fieldsketching so I decided to grab an hour or two of studio work. It seemed like a good time to return to pastel and charcoal work, with the subject as usual based on a photo I'd taken.

I'd been happy with my recent Piping Plovers in charcoal and pastels so that's one reason I chose this medium. I also had been happy with the recent watercolor of the Acadian Flycatcher surrounded by leaves and catkins, probably birch, and basking in a golden/green glow. There is something about that glow I love. So I decided to do a drawing based on another photo of the flycatcher.

But as I started I realized that there was something else. I wanted to improvise, as I used to in my abstract and non-objective drawings and paintings. So that's what I did. There is a basic drawing here and a wee bit of planning. But most of this is an improvisation. Who knows how it will turn out?

The drawing at the top is the first version, mainly in compressed charcoal with some pastel. The version above adds much more pastel and a fair amount of erasure. As with so much of my work I need to take care that I don't lose too much of the brilliant white of the paper. It will be another tightrope walk. So will the rest of the work. I really don't know where I'm going with this. But that is the thrill of improvisation. Sometimes it works; and sometimes it doesn't.

When I was a graduate student in art at Cornell I loved jazz and really thought of much of my work as being similar to improvisatory jazz. There may be a foundational melody or other structure to come back to but the fun is in experimenting away from that structure. In this case it's the Acadian Flycatcher and foliage. I hope that I won't lose the structure in my improvisation. As with all my bird art I still want to stay true to the subject.


Sid Frissell said...

Ken: Check out This is a UK site featuring a couple dozen artists who paint birds. Most of them paint realistically in studio but there are some field studies too.

I see you have been very busy painting. All very good stuff.


Ken Januski said...

Hi Sid,

Thanks for the link. I have looked there briefly in the past. I've always like Szabi Kokay's work, especially his life studies. Now I'll need to look more closely at the other artists as well.