Sunday, November 23, 2014

Titian Probably Never Knew How He Was Going to Finish A Picture

American Goldfinch on Thistle. Proof of Multi-block Woodcut by Ken Januski.

American Goldfinch on Thistle. Later Stage of Multi-block Woodcut by Ken Januski.

Titian probably never knew how he was going to finish a picture, and Rembrandt must often have been in the same state. His extravagantly vigorous brushstrokes were less the result of planned execution than of feeling his way with repeated touches.
Eugene Delacroix, The Journal of Eugene Delacroix, translated by Hubert Wellington, published by Phaidon Press, entry for November 3, 1850.

I continue to reread The Journal of Eugene Delacroix and can't resist quoting much of what Delacroix has written. Sometimes it's directly relevant to the artwork I'm showing and sometimes not. Today I think it is pretty relevant, at least in the sense that I'm feeling my way with this print. I find this is the way that I work most often.

You can set up a skeletal framework to start a painting or print, but in the end you need to have a dialog with your medium, sometimes giving it its way and ending up in surprising places.  I know that there are artists who plan out everything, and supposedly Alfred Hitchcock was the epitome of this in film, but I think most successful artists stay open enough as they proceed to veer off in a slightly different direction if they see that the opportunity arises and probably will offer a better result.

In the case of Titian and Rembrandt they are of course feeling their way in more representational work than mine. And they are using brushes not chisels and wood. But there is a great similarity in the sense that I really don't at all know how this print will end. I don't know how I'll finish it.

At top the black block is printed on top of a proof with the three colors that I've printed so far: yellow, rose and olive/brown. Beneath it is the actual print with those three colors. As I move on to the final colors I'd like to have a better idea of what the black will look like. But I don't want it covering everything as it does in top print. So I'm going to need to feel my way along, removing more and more of the black woodblock and proofing it. The danger, and one I'm well aware of from past experience, is that I'll remove too much black. That's why I've removed so little up until now.

But it is time to start removing it. I'll be feeling my way with repeated carvings.

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