Friday, January 27, 2012

Music and Art: A Great Relationship

I like to listen to music when I paint and I think the tone of the music I’m listening to has an effect n the painting I’m working on. When I attend a group painting session I try to listen to fast, upbeat music. I particularly favor Third Day, Pink Floyd and Journey. The pace of the music seems to speed up my own painting and I am almost always able to complete the piece in two hours or so. Because the model only poses for a couple hours this works out great for me.

If I’m involved in a more complicated piece that requires thinking and planning I tend to listen to music that is calming and less likely to reach a fever pitch: usually classical piano concertos. The music stays in the background and my thoughts stay focused on what I’m painting. 

When I’m working on still life I can listen to pretty much anything because this is the easiest type of painting. The subject is in front of you, the composition has been worked out by the arrangement of objects and I have the freedom to just paint and interpret on the fly. It’s one of the more enjoyable things to paint for me and I love to listen to singers like Adele and Carrie Underwood when I do these pieces.  The rising crescendos and surprising turns in these ladies’ voices really help me think of ways to make my painting more interesting. Music is similar to painting in many ways. If the song is a lullaby with no tonal differences and a very calming melody it puts us to sleep. If a painting has all soft edges and little value changes it presents us with a calming vision. That’s not all bad and some paintings are intentionally done in this manner.
But I don’t paint that way. I like to have variety in strokes, in color, and in flow. I find excitement in texture and randomness. I enjoy the way a turquoise note plays against a backdrop of orange. Even the words we use for painting can be interchanged with those used in music. Notes and harmony are just two examples I can think of at the moment but I’m sure there are more.

Working with photos is a challenge but also fun if you approach it the right way. I think you need to work from life for at least five years before you can trust and interpret accurately what you see in photos but after that you probably have learned enough to enjoy it. Photographs can’t accurately create what we see with the eye because they sacrifice the values in the darkness in order to include those in the light—or vice versa. The human eye can see many more gradations, although that doesn’t mean we WANT to. Sometimes the simplest painting has two or three values and it is a winner.

I always prefer painting form life but this isn’t always possible so I tend to fall back on my supply of photographs.   I never try to create a physical copy of a photo when I paint. There would not be much point to it…we already have the photograph! Instead I use the photo as starting point and think about what kind of painting I can make. Sometimes this process requires years. I had the photograph I used for this painting stored in my computer files for over a year, in my “REFERENCES” folder. I took the photo in 2010 when I met a beautiful 50ish belly dancer who was willing to pose for a photo shoot. I met her though a mutual friend when we stayed at her home because we had a paint out to attend in the area. She turned out to be a very neat lady who is a physician by day and an accomplished belly dancer in the evenings. Who would have thought?

For this painting I decided to do a few studies. This is an 11” x 14” oil painting that I did to work out the colors for a larger piece. She tried on two costumes for us so I may do another small study to see if that costume works better. Or I may include two dancers! I don’t know—this is the process I go through as I create something. I like to leave my options open.

Now I will critique my painting-- just one more thing a solitary artist working in her own studio needs to become proficient at. The painting has areas of rest and unrest. It has notes of bright color and notes of quiet. There is texture and there is smoothness. The study is a finished painting in its own right but it will (hopefully lead to a larger, even more interesting piece.) There are many things I like about it-- the "S" curve of the dancer's pose, which I intentionally emphasized, the vibrant colors and especially the teal (my favorite color). The palette knife squigglies. :)  Other areas need more work if they are to translate well into a larger piece, but overall the painting does a nice job of creating a mysterious mood for the dancer and we wonder how that tiny little woman can possibly hold that big sword so easily. (She actually did!)

Sword Play
11 x 14" oil on linen

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