Wednesday, September 11, 2013

"Starting with a definite plan, but sometimes just letting go!"

"Untitled", 18x24 oil on linen

It has been my experience that having a plan of some sort when starting a painting produces more consistent results.  Over the years, I have learned that intention is an integral part of success….or at least elevates the potential for a painting to be successful.  This is not to say that one should not just let it fly and experiment occasionally.  I think this can produce discoveries that might not otherwise be revealed by practicing only the tried and proven.  The scenario that seems to work best for me is to start with an idea, or plan of what a work might be in the end, and during the process remain open to the possibilities along the way.  That keeps the door open for changes and hopefully an occasional improvement on the original idea.  There are of course never guarantees of success when starting….only hopeful optimism. I don’t necessarily agree that the end justifies the means, because I enjoy the process so much….I would not embrace a method that was not fun for me personally just because it was expedient.  This pertains mostly to studio painting where one has time to ponder and play around with things.  This is the thing I like about studio painting. 
The more immediate interpretations that I capture on location in field studies, or from life are somewhat different….for me personally.  Aside from the obvious benefit of practicing painting from life, in these situations I never have time to do much except race to try and capture something that is fleeting….like the changing light, or an expression on the model’s face, things that constantly change, etc.  I can only speak for myself…of course!

Step 1.

Step 2.

Step 3.

"Off the Beaten Path" 12x16 oil on linen

It is sometimes fun and interesting to start with a rather undefined end game, and just see what happens.  The painting “Off the Beaten Path”, 12x16 oil on linen is sort of an example of that.  I started this with a vague road map of shapes that left me openings to change easily by not being married to a more resolved drawing, or specifically defined shapes that can sometimes become to precious to change.  On the other hand, “Memories of Summer” 18x24 oil on linen, as one can see in the easel photo with the monitor….I did not depart from the original idea except to open up some of the inky shadows in the reference caused by the camera, and add a few seagulls.  The information in a digital shot is great, but the experience of painting from life allows me to correct the deficiency in a photo. 

"Memories of Summer", 18x24 oil on linen, on the easel
I guess this goes to the discussion about how to start a painting in different ways, and how that keeps one from relying on formulas in one’s approach to painting.  I find that some students seem to want formulas, or quick solutions, rather than be willing to make some of the discoveries themselves by putting in the time experimenting on their own.  This is getting into another topic….for another post.  Until next time, thanks again for listening to my ramblings.    


  1. I enjoy your "ramblings" and appreciate your insight Hodges, thanks for sharing!