Saturday, 19 December 2009

Abstracting the Landscape

Whenever I visit a gallery it tends to be the abstracts that draw my attention. If you had asked me why that was, or what I thought made a good abstract I am not sure I could have told you and maybe it was for this reason that I had toyed with, but not felt confident enough to produce abstract work of my own.

This year I have met two abstract artists here in the Pyrenees Orientales, each of whom has a very different approach and style and recently we have begun to meet and paint together once a month.  It is through working with these two women that I have begun to really appreciate the difference between painting for the sake of the paint and painting to make pictures. I have taken my first few steps into this new world of paint.  In producing three abstracts of my own I have started to appreciate just how much the abstract relies on the paint and its application. The abstract has to speak for itself, there is no picture telling a story only the paint and its effect on the viewer.

Composition, colour, texture, layering, mark making – each element of the abstract painting is all important if a successful result is to be achieved.  I suppose what I was struggling with was the question of how I would know whether I had achieved a successful abstract and only time will tell whether I can answer that for myself.  In the meantime, just take a look at the styles of my two friends.

First there is Jennifer Lussman who has been working this way for a long time now.  Her strong abstracts resonate and glow, textures are really important and the work very tactile.

Then there is Mary Jose.  Mary started out as a watercolour artist and has only made the move to abstraction in the last year, using a pouring technique to create her pieces.  She  has a wonderful colour sense and builds up thin layers of paint to create her effects, bringing in brush hand knife work in the finishing stages.

Encouraged by these two women I have produced my first two pieces that you can see here and at the top of this blog.  I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience of paint for the sake of itself as well as using a very limited palette on a black background.  I am now proposing to look at ways to simplify my landscapes and my husband has suggested I call the process ‘extraction’ rather than ‘abstraction’ ! I rather like that idea.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Changing and developing a style

Early on in my painting career I attended a marketing seminar which was supposed to give artists good marketing advice and pointers for attracting galleries.  One of the other artists attending that seminar was a  well established professional who warned me not to exhibit too early.  I’m afraid I didn’t take too much notice at the time, but when I look back, I know she was absolutely right.

I had a lucky break then and was offered a one woman show at a venue in central London.  I exhibited around 21 canvasses – it left an impression of my work that I now regret.  So when do you know that you are ready to exhibit ? I have to say that I still find the whole process rather like dancing in public in the nude !  You are exposing your soul when you show your work and laying a very delicate part of the ego open to criticism. There are still paintings that I show that I feel doubtful about, only to find that they sell immediately and others of which I am quite confident take a while before they find a home. This one below I could have sold 4 times over.

My landscapes told stories and had a somewhat naiive quality about them that has gone now.  Work has to evolve – the more you paint the more you find out.  There is always something to learn, some happy accident that can lead you to the next stage .  Part of my recent creative block was to do with a deep seated dissatisfaction with what I was doing, that allowed the niggly little voice of self criticism to take hold.  I have experimented with various different new approaches as a result and think that I am coming back to the conclusion that it is better to continue along the familiar path and allow that to develop rather than starting all over from a completely fresh perspective.  I think there is a certain amount of commercial sense in that if you already have a following and have found a market.  

I’d be interested in hearing from other artists on the subject of their own development and career progression and whether they took a radically different path at some stage.