Archive for Painting

Painting in Layers; Thinking in Layers

Painting in layers, with symbols hidden underneathNancy Smeltzer, MFA  

While I had many classes in painting in art school, it’s not  a medium that usually speaks to me. However, while I was recently at The Journey, out at the Joshua Retreat Center in California, USA. I had two marvelous teachers to persuade me to reconsider the medium. Whitney Ferre and Nikki Shannon were the two incredibly enthusiastic instructors who led us through a four hour exercise, and what great, good fun we had.

While I’m showing you first the finished product, shown here on the left, there were several permutations that occurred before the painting got to this stage. First we chose two canvas panels, one to use for the palette and the other actually to paint on. I squeezed a few blobs of different colors of paint on to my palette and back to myseatI went to play.

Layer 1 of paintingHere’s what the first layer of my piece looked like. I had no concept that I was trying to depict, except to play with the paint. I did tone a note to myself that I often do when I’m working creatively, or when I feel sick, as the note makes me feel good. Sometime, I should get with someone who knows music, and could tell me what note I’m humming, as I know it’s the same note each time. Then, I photographed the canvas, and set it out in the desert sun to dry a little before adding the next layer of paint. I then went around the room to see what everybody else was doing. I often find that I get quite a bit of inspiration by doing that, as for me, it’s always enlightening to see how others are interpreting the materials and what creative ways they’re using them.

Layer 2 of the paintingI then decided to add some yummy peachy orange to the painting. A woman near me had a huge amount of it on her palette and was quite generous in sharing it. I wasn’t pleased with the brush strokes I was making, so Nikki got us all some plastic coffee stirrers from upstairs, and I used the side of the stick to roll the paint sideways along the surface of the painting. One of the most obvious features of the desert outside was the brilliant sunlight, so I wanted to included some of that brightness in this piece by using the peach paint. Then, back outside, I took the piece for the photograph and then for some more drying time out in the sunlight. Then, of course, there was more time to wander around the room and see what everybody else was doing.

Layer 3 with chakra language symbolsThe next stage involved us adding symbols and numbers to our paintings. Whitney and Nikki had several good books on ancient symbols, totem animals, and numerology charts from which people could choose designs that they felt were relevant for them. I chose, however, to portray what I often know as chakra languages. I am shown visions of three different kinds. One seems to be a binary code, with lights flashing on and off, mush like Morse code. The second language seems to be of sounds and vibrations. Symbols that vaguely resemble ancient cuneiform pictographs are the third language that I’ve been shown, and that’s the one that I used in this painting. With black paint and the coffee stirrers, I let the paint to tell me where and how it wanted to be placed. I don’t pretend to get very much out of the symbols that I’m shown yet. I do understand that there’s enough organization and repetition that what I’m  being shown is a language, I just know it’s being downloaded for right now. A time will come when I will know more about it. When I was finished with the black paint, I felt that my painting was complete.

At this point, however, Whitney had us hold up our paintings so that the group could see them. She suggested that while my painting had lots of great details, there was no contrast, and that perhaps the addition of a large shape was needed. I got what she was saying about there needed to be contrast, but to accomplish that, I would need to paint over at least some of my symbols. Stuck in my art quilt mindset, I was thinking that I would have had to rip out the buttons and beads that had been sewn on there that would have been making those details.  To put a larger shape in the composition, I didn’t see immediately that with paint, all I would need to do would be to paint over the top of what I had already added. There was nothing to rip out! I could even add more paint on top of what I was now going to add if I didn’t like what happened. DUH!!! I loved the concept of hidden meanings being buried under layers that only the artist would know about unless it was recorded in some fashion.

Canvas board used as a paletteI quickly got some more of the peach paint from my new friend, and added the series of sunburst rows around the center of the painting that you see in the first photo above. My concept was again, to honor the sun, which was one of the dominating features outside in the desert. I even played some with the palette board, shown on the left, and used the coffee stirrers to make scratches or sgraffito marks in the surface of the thick paint.

It’s interesting that this posting is #152 on this blog, and the last one for 2012, and it’s about painting. I’m not sure that I will pursue painting very much, as for starters, I don’t like being messy. No matter how hard I tried, I got paint everywhere on me, including a few spots on my camera. Since we were using acrylics, everything was easily washed out, so no permanent damage was done. I do like the concept of “Hidden Meanings” and could see that becoming the title for a new series of art quilts. I do highly recommend taking some classes out of your usual medium, as for myself, I often find lots more new ideas than I do in my medium of choice. art quilting.

What other artistic techniques have you tried and what lessons have you learned? Which insights were you able to carry over into your usual way of creating.

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