|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.)