Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Oldie but goodie

People, I tried to paint some figs last night and was ignominiously defeated. Here instead is a curiosity: the first still life I ever painted. It was at art school two years ago and used the traditional method of (laborious) sight-size drawing, then drawing transfer to canvas, then several layers of oil paint (waiting a week between each layer for it to touch-dry), then a final glaze layer for detail.

Before I ever tried painting, I thought this sort of finish/look/style in an oil painting must be the hardest to do. In fact, in my opinion, this type of "tight" painting is much easier than loose painting. I remember looking at loose, juicy, painterly alla prima stuff and liking it but thinking, Well, that must be quite easy, you just slosh the paint around and have fun with it... Ha! Little did I know how much more difficult a loose style is, where every brushstroke must be thoughtful and expressive and placed in just the right way, with just the right value and color on the first go and the painting manage to somehow work together as a whole even with differing thicknesses of paint.

Yes, I am adorable, whatcha gonna do about it?

More art on my website: jalapfaff.com


Carrie Jacobson said...

If ever I wanted to find a model for loose, I'd just have to look at this picture of your kitten.

Loose is so much harder and, to my eye, so much more interesting! How you've grown as a painter and, I'd venture, as a thinker.

Anonymous said...

That's a very interesting comparison because for whatever reason, I'm pulled in by loose paintings-- gestural strokes that suggest rather than simulate.

And how right you are- they are harder because the precision is less forgiving. You don't have weeks and layers and transfers. You have the now and the correctness.
Well, YOU do.

It must be freeing for you to have left that formality behind and come to the body of work you so joyously show here.

I can't even make any more clever comments about Lynx.
Just check my suitcase for it's contents should I ever visit you.

Mona said...

Really enjoying your Lynx posts Jala! Maybe a little print-on-demand book of his dailies could be fun.

Tight or loose, patience does seem to be the necessary virtue.

Dana Cooper Fine Art said...

You said it perfectly, but I really think that only artists understand that! An untrained eye sees the realistic as the harder to paint. Accurate values in the first stroke...so, so hard!! Add knowing how to draw to that and you have a loose painter.

Karen Bruson said...

Wow! Hard to believe this is the first still life you ever painted. It is just lovely.

Gwen Bell said...

This is fantastic Realism, Jala.

I totally agree with you about "loose". It's so much harder, but like Dana said, I wonder if only Artist really get that?

Thanks for the kitty shot. Love those little spread toes that show such contentment!

r garriott said...

Very insightful and well put.

Janelle Goodwin said...

Interesting post, Jala. It's so true that it's harder to remain loose. I have to constantly remind myself to not paint so tightly!

Oh, that kitty. He's just the cutest.

Cathyann said...

Impressive first still life. So did you eat the figs?
I agree with several statements herein. While I appreciate the hard work put into the school of high realism, I do think that the less you offer the more interesting the work. Plus, the freer brush comes with confidence, which in my opinion, the educated eye understands, artist or not.
This cat will be painted. I promise.

eLIZabeth Floyd said...

Hi Jala,

Yep, tight painting may seem more difficult, but it avoids the expression of the artist's "touch". This makes the decision making more mechanical, where loose, gestural markmaking is all about decisions being made as the painting proceeds and relies on experience and understanding of how to paint wet into wet.

This painting is still very nice and it is good to see how you are evolving as an artist.

**love the relaxed posture of Lynx, I wish I could sometimes obtain the total ease cats obtain while lounging about :)

Kelley Carey MacDonald said...

Totally agree about looseness being hardest! Of course, there's plenty of crappy 'loose' paintings out there - I know you mean when it's loose and you NAIL it! Defeated by figs myself this week, I like seeing your older work. But the creme de la creme... is Lynx.. (as I clicked on your blog I HOPED there'd be a new one of him...)

Jala Pfaff said...

Carrie - Yes, he is loose and he is endlessly interesting. :)

Bonnie - I too am enamored of paintings that suggest rather than tell all. I will be sure to check all your baggage before you leave my premises.

Mona - Thanks. Ah, another future project...

Dana - I agree.

Karen - Thank you. I had good instruction too.

Gwen - Thanks. I love his toes too. :) I tend to think that non-artists definitely perceive tight painting as harder.

Janelle - I guess it's an individual thing, but for me loose is definitely harder. Nose-kissies from Lynx.

Cathyann - That's an interesting question, whether the "uninitiated" can see confidence in a painting... I have not yet eaten the figs because I have a naive hope I can attempt to paint them again. Sigh.

ELIZabeth - Thanks for your comments. I know, cats are supreme in knowing how to relax. It's part of what I love about having them around. They have a lot to teach us.

Kelley - No way! You were also defeated by figs this week?! How funny. We're in the same club.
I know you love the Lynxmuffin. :)