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Painting on the Loose

 

I've been practicing. I'm trying to train my outdoor painting hand into a style that works under extreme conditions. This takes some planning. Art craves a kind of internal consistency. Any one piece of a work of art should have a traceable relationship to the whole. A body of work should have a traceable order within its variations. When you have all the time in the world to create a body of work, this isn't an issue. Consistency simply emerges because it's you, your hands, your mind, your taste, and the limits of your talent that are creating the work. If you paint consistently, you'll develop a style, even if it takes years to do so. But if schedule matters, if time matters, then the style, the mode of execution, the "hand," become very important. A Sumi-E ink sketch can be done in minutes. A plein air Impressionist piece could take a day. A Renaissance portrait, executed in layers of glazed oils, takes months.

I intend my paintings to feel complete; immediate, raw, gestural, and expressive, but complete. Only certain types of painting can be completed in six to eight hours. If I'm not careful, I could set up a visual style that I can't complete in the time allowed, then the paintings would all be obviously incomplete, interesting as a record of an experience in the wild, but not quite "art." 

Even a plein air impressionist painting, like the ones I created in the Himalayas, would be hard to complete on this Mongolian journey.  These Mongolian paintings are bigger, the subject grander and broader, the weather more severe, the daylight hours more restricted. These factors are not limits to the art, rather, they are part of the art. The whole idea is to live the moment of the painting, to ride the circumstances, not to deny or fight them, to be a part of the landscape in all it's severity, as I create the pieces that reflect it. The hand of the paintings is part of that relationship, a hand that can resolve its intentions in one day. Before I leave, I have to know what I'm setting out to do with my hand. That takes practice, like any other physical training. My painting hand is emerging as a subset of my sketchbook hand, strong line work over a medium ground color with highlights and restrained color. It can be very handsome and effective. I've never been a great colorist, so the restricted color palette is an advantage. I think the results could be very handsome. Time will tell. I'm bringing some medium-sized canvases just in case I'm crazy wrong.



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