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Drawing Into Your Painting
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Drawing Into Your Painting

Someone once said that the concentration required in painting is equal to that of a brain surgeon. It sounds a bit dramatic, I know, and certainly the painting doesn’t involve life or death decisions but the aspect of concentration is a valid point. In concentrating so hard, however, painters can sometimes lose the “liveliness” of the painting.

I recognise this in my own work and this can kill a painting as far as I’m concerned. One can get too focused on getting a certain subject in the painting “correct” that you it becomes too literal and lacking in life. I found this the other day in a small painting that I’ve been working on from the beautiful Cretan harbour of Rethimno. I started this several months ago when I was there on holiday. Since the subject was the buildings on the harbour front and was getting stuck in some of the architectural accuracy that the painting was looking fairly correct but a bit boring and I noticed I was starting to get bored doing it. What to do when this happens?

One tip I find helps, is to take a conti stick, pastel or some compressed charcoal and allow my self to draw freely into the surface. With drawing materials such as these you can be freer and spontaneous in a way that you can’t be with a paintbrush. Because you’re drawing into and around your existing work your subdividing the surface again and breathing in new possibilities. There’s no need to worry about making mistakes because it can be washed off again if you don’t like it. It works very well particularly with acrylics or other water based paints because they dry quickly and the pastel or whatever takes to the dry surface better. It also works with oils but it’s you have to wait a bit longer till the surface dries. You can use it This new “layer” of work always gives me some new ideas, identifies possible focal points and also gives a new aspect to my painting-that of a linear balance to the colour “fields” which I’ve painted. It’s important to do this quickly and spontaneously and trust your eye and hand to make the right decisions.

Whatever you do, don’t get in the way of this process by thinking too much. As I said before, it can all be washed off again so there’s no real risk (unlike the brain surgeon!). Doing this intermittently within the duration of the painting keeps the painting and, your interest, alive.


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