Sunday, October 21, 2012

design decisions

I have several pieces close to being finished. I want to push through and complete them, but in a thoughtful and deliberate way. The piece at left, 20" x  24", is one candidate. Although it looks chaotic at the moment, it has several diverse layers of paint already built up. My instinct is to cover up the detail with a few large color fields, to calm down the surface. But I don't really see what to do next.

What do I want my top layers to look like? I have settled on a process for getting to the finishing stage, through the building up of layer after layer of color and theme. But I realized this morning that I don't really know what it is that I want on that top layer, the layer that everyone sees when they first look at the painting.

When I review my previous work, even going back to 2005 when I began to explore abstraction, the vast majority of pieces that I like are landscape-oriented with a strong horizon line -- or, in my "cliff" series, a strong horizontal ledge-line -- from side to side. I think that this reflects one set of qualities that I want to express in my work: that of stability, or calmness, or quiet. Another characteristic that dominates is that of color: Very few pastel or muted palettes are present, and the few paintings that are somewhat neutral in hue frequently have notes of saturated color. I have tried at times to paint monochromatic and/or pale pieces, but they have seldom been satisfactory to me.

In my latest artist's statement (see previous post), I don't address what I want a finished painting to look like, or what I want the viewer to experience. So that isn't much help. But I do make it pretty clear that my paintings are about the land. It would be reasonable to have the final surface clearly reference that. Another resource is my list of "concepts" (see post for August 21st). Surely any finished piece should show evidence of some of them.

If I imagine walking into a room exhibiting my work, I want each piece to catch the eye in some way. I go back to the two qualities that jumped out when I looked at my past work: a strong horizontal line, and color. I have been feeling as though I should avoid horizontal, edge-to-edge lines, since they immediately announce "landscape", and I have interpreted "going abstract" as avoiding that. But, fact is, the land is my subject, and one way to indicate that in a painting is to reference "landscape". So perhaps horizon lines are okay, at least for now. And I think color is here to stay as a salient characteristic. More to come.

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