Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Painting and Finishing, Painting and Finishing

Blackburnian, Canada and Black-throated GreenWarblers. 9x12 inch  acrylic painting. Copyright 2020 by Ken Januski.

Savannah Sparrow at Dixon Meadow  Preserve. 9x12 inch acrylic painting. Copyright 2020  by Ken Januski.


Though I had thought I might  have returned to printmaking by now I obviously have not. I think I know why. September  and October so far  have both been very active with migrating birds. I see them,  am stimulated to  portray them  and/or  the experience of  seeing them  and  I have to choose a medium. Which medium seems to offer the most flexibility? Not printmaking, not watercolor, at least for  me, but acrylic.

Most of my artistic background  is in painting, either acrylic  or oil, where I  can make a major change in a nanosecond. It turns out that this is  the way I feel like working right  now. I want a  direct way to make some sort of portrayal of  what I've seen.

But  I almost never want a portrait. I realized after almost my first or second bird painting that I didn't  like the idea of  bird portraits. Yes, there are many  handsome, beautiful birds, including all of the ones above. But to  portray them to me seems wrong. Too often it makes them seem cute. Nicely posed, painted in understated colors, etc., etc. I occasionally do something like this in a watercolor study, though I wouldn't argue that I do so with any great skill. But they are just  studies. They aren't finished  paintings and for me aren't even studies for  finished  paintings. Why? Because they would just look like portraits, like photos from  the 19th century of  your distant ancestors in photographic studios. Very stiff and unnatural!

I've never know how to portray them in a way that looks more natural, though this is a lack of both imagination  and skill with particular media, e.g. oil, watercolor, printmaking, et al. Acrylic painting allows my imagination to run free. I can keep experimenting and changing until the composition seems right. It's a very direct way to work.

So that is more  or less what the "painting" refers to in the title. I just keep painting trying to find the right way to  make a picture of something,  in this case birds that I've recently seen.

There's also the question of "finishing." I've always, and I do  think always is correct, disliked paintings with high finish, particularly paintings  where you  can't  even see any  brushstrokes. This  has been an ideal for  some painters for many centuries.  And I'm sure I can find some painters, Raphael perhaps, where the high finish doesn't bother me. But often it  just is very irritating. Ingres is somewhere in between. I have to  admire his work but  it does leave me pretty cold. Unfortunately in wildlife art it has been de rigeur for 100s years or more as far as I can tell. And it is wildlife  art that it seems most misplaced. For still life, nature morte,  it might make more sense. Most of  the subjects are no longer alive. Even the fruit has  been plucked. But wildlife IS alive. Why paint wildlife that looks like a still life? As I've written about this  many times  before I won't go  on. I'll just say that it is not a type of  "finish" I want in my  paintings.

My idea of  "finish," is much closer to Matisse's, at least the Matisse who wrote early in his career that in his paintings he wanted everything in its place, where there was nothing extra and everything worked  together. I think that idea has probably been prominent in my work for 40-50 years. I wouldn't argue that  it's the only way to make art. And  I'm sure that for  some viewers it can be just as offputting as the high finish of  more photographically-minded painters is  to  me.

So the other thing I like  about painting is  that also allows me to get to the type of  formal finish much more quickly than any other medium. Both printmaking  and watercolor generally require some planning and exclude much change and modification. It's  just the  nature of those  media. If you have a good  idea what you want to start with then they can be ideal media. And I do  love to the work of  others in  them. I even like some of my own.

But right now I'm more interested in both formal finish, ala Matisse, and wildlife art that seems alive and not a portrait, sometimes a stultified portrait. So  I continue to work in acrylic, painting and finishing.

I'm sure there will come a time when I want to translate some of  that into prints.

I had hoped to write more  about the upcoming Society of Wildlife Artist's 'The Natural  Eye ' show  in London. But I think that should  be another post. For now you can see, and  buy, much  of the work at The Natural Eye 2020.

(I'm starting to hate the new Blogger. My html may indeed be invalid as Blogger tells me but I didn't  create  it, Blogger did. I'm sure that this is of no interest to readers to I'm just going to ignore it. I don't have time to babysit Blogger.)

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