Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Failures, Experiments and Unfinished paintings

I get many failures. The reject pile grows ever higher, so high that if I fell off the top I'd probably break a leg!  It does comprise different categories. Older paintings that I was  happy with at the time but  have been replaced by better ones. Others are experimental where I was trying different things, swatches, figures, trees, and so on. Some are just abject but I'll draw a veil over them.  All is not entirely lost as many can be painted on the reverse, which is what I do, given the cost of cotton-based papers. Ron Ranson once told me some of his best paintings were on the back of failures, including one that was hung at the RWA.

 11" x 15" Leonardo 300lb (600gm) 

This was an experiment using Hahnemuhle Leonardo paper, which is used by both Viktoria Prischedko and Gerard Hendricks. Yvonne bought a quantity on special offer and offered me a couple of sheets.
I have yet to try the second but first impressions were not very positive. I warned Yvonne that such heavy papers soak up the paint and, as a recent convert to Daniel Smith. this could prove very expensive. She was unimpressed at first, although results improved with subsequent paintings. I don't think she plans to change however and remains wedded to Fabriano Artistico Extra White 140lb (300gm). If you see the earlier features on both Viktoria and Gerard you will see they paint in an entirely different way.  

This is a failed and unfinished painting in my Amerindian series. I was quite pleased with the drawing but my failure to interpret the original monochrome photograph, one of the Edward Curtis series, made me decide to abandon it. 

Can you see my dilemma? Is his hair grey or is it just reflecting the light? Has he possibly died his hair? Has that above the face black roots? The change to very light  is extreme and I've concluded that I became too fixated on the photograph details and should not have made certain assumptions but been creative. Interpreting these old monochrome photos is not easy due to the extreme contrast and loss of detail but I found this one particularly difficult. 

16" x 12" Centenaire 140lb not.

 This is another experimental attempt at the same subject using a slightly different approach - a little more abstract. I experimented with colour using diluted pink and green overall with the right facing side of the image in a darker green shade. This was put on after the original colour was dry. Colours here were Viridian and Quinacridone Rose. I think it gives me some ideas for future works.

Fabriano Artistico Extra White 18" x 12" Not

This is an unfinished still life. I drew and painted the first section then left it for a few days. It was originally done on the spur of the moment and I didn't have a proper plan. I was quite pleased initially and intended to add some strawberries and grapes. When I came to do so the strawberries had been eaten and the grapes much reduced in number. Apart from drawing a few grapes from memory I've done nothing else and am inclined to abandon it and paint on the reverse.

Indian Pony 16" x 12" Centenaire 140lb Not

I'm don't think this is a total failure and am in two minds about it. It was painted from a monochrome photograph and depicts an Indian pony in full flow. I'd be interested in any views.

There we have it. Painting can be exhilarating and depressing, I get periods when nothing seems to go right and you wonder if it's all worth it. Usually I recover quite quickly and produce something better - at least I think it is - so the gloom lifts. The advice from the artist Trevor Waugh is that everyone suffers these bouts of uncertainty and the one thing you don't do is stop painting.  


Judy said...

Nice post and very brave! Don't call them failures, Peter, call them studies, because your learned from all of them. I'm interested in your experience with H. Leonardo, I have a small sheet of this paper. I have found a bloc of different H. papers and am trying them out. You can read more about it on my blog, if you like.

Ray Maclachlan said...

You are very game to bare your soul so openly Peter. It can be healing but I don't consider all of those shown as failures. I cut up all my failures, and there are many, before Christmas and chop sections out to turn into cards. Friends think they have a card painted especially for them.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for commenting Judy. I don't consider myself brave just realistic. Having started painting as late as 61 I don't have any illusions or false hopes. I do look at artists I admire, of which there are many, and think I wonder if.... so optimism is also present. I'll certainly look at your blog.

Peter Ward said...

Hi Ray and thanks for commenting. I'm not that bothered by failures - well sometimes! I have some of the paintings I did when I first started, you know the sort tree foliage a solid mass of one colour, trunks all brown so at least I've moved on from there (grin).

Anns Art said...

Interesting review on the Leonardo paper Peter, good to know these things. I do have some Fabriano Acquerello 90lbs but have to say I'm not so keen on it. Will definitely try the Extra White 300gm though. Your indian pony is very good, you have given it movement and like this style.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for comments Ann. I shall be doing something on papers with the help of Rui, who often comments on here.
My favourite mould-made papers are Waterford and Fabriano Artistico. I've tried many others.
Fabriano appear to have re-vamped their Fabriano 5, 50 cotton, which is said to be `very white'. I wasn't impressed with the old version though.

Mick Carney said...

I enjoyed this post. We all have efforts that annoy, irritate, upset us and a bin to put them in, even if that is just a pile in the corner. They are worth keeping if for no other reason than to review them and ask ourselves where we went wrong.

Any way, I think there are a couple here worth another look and the second still life works as it is, an interesting painterly piece.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Mick. I'm working on another indian portrait at the moment and so far.....