Firstly, Happy 2019 everyone! Hope you all had a good holiday season. wishing you all the best for this coming year.
Over the past month or so, I’ve been picking away on a painting that’s almost exactly the same as one I’d painted back in 2015. About halfway through, I got curious, And dug into my hard drive to find a shot of the old one, and was really surprised at how differently things are being handled after painting foliage-based stuff for the past 4 years.
Since it’s essentially the same painting, it feels like it’s easier to evaluate things on a 1:1 basis. While several variables have changed (different time of year I took the pic, different camera, lens, lights) it was still a validating experience to see how much the painting approach has changed. While they’re certainly similar in terms of palette and mood, I feel like the more recent one is much less labored over while at the same time in a lot of ways achieves a similarly “complete” result.
One of the main things that jumped out to me was the grass. I’ve painted a LOT of grass past couple years, and I think it’s finally paying off! In the new version, There’s more depth and suggested detail and overall it just reads better to me. Funny thing again is that I remember really struggling with how to approach that grass in the first painting, and in the end I opted for almost a flat detail-less execution.
With the newer one, the grass evolved pretty easily and predictably. Aaaaand it was probably less work to be honest. By starting with a scratchy underpainting and selectively dry brushing highlights, there was a lot less blending to form painting, and more of a selective hunt-and peck approach. Much less rework. And in the end There’s a lot more drama to that front lit grass, casting shadows on itself and creating a tapestry of more interesting abstract shapes. I also significantly desaturated the grass, which I think captures wet, front lit grass more effectively.
The tree itself is also handled very differently. The first one I painted mostly wet in wet, crawling along the surface, working left to right over the course of about 3 days. Its very carefully and the branches are much more painstakingly reproduced. I can see less confidence in how to paint this type of stuff, and to me at least it comes off as perhaps a little sparse and stiff.
By contrast, The recent one was painted more in layers, starting with a fairly rough monochrome underpainting laid in first to establish forms and certain textures. Color was then glazed on an, with additional opaque refinements built up on top. Both paintings likely took about the same amount working hours, but the newer attempt was spread out over several weeks of shorter sittings, as opposed to marathoning it over the course of a few days. Interestingly, while the newer one is less refined in a lot of areas, I think it comes off better observed and more complete. The paint is doing a lot more of the work. Crazy how you can get more with less sometimes.
Overall, to me at least, there just seems to be a much less timid paint application throughout the entire painting. And it takes full advantage of painting effects created by working in layers. More scumbling, broken edges, built up surface and texture, and just generally more thought out color notes and accents. Its counter intuitive in a way, but by slowing down the pace and tackling things in stages, The end result seems livelier and more expressive. To borrow again on something i mentioned in my last post on here, it’s gone from a no-holds-barred wrestling match to more of a chess game, which is not only more mentally stimulating, but it’s also less bruising to my neck, back, and ego.
Its not that I don’t still have love for that first one. There are things that I still really like about it. Theres an emptiness and clarity that in some ways I prefer over the better lit second one. And I consider it to be kind of a breakthrough piece. It was the first front-lit night painting that actually turned out okay, and provided a recipe that I’ve continued striving to better hone and refine since then.
It’s a really cool and enlightening exercise to see how differently you handle the same subject matter years later. You surprise yourself in unexpected ways. Has anyone else tried something like this? If so what were the biggest differences you found?
Figured I’d also post an update on this other floral painting I’ve been working on here and their over the past few months. think it’s taken so long on it because i hadn’t painted flowers like this before, and have had to take kind of a crash course in how the hell to paint flower petals without it coming off too “techniquey”. Its almost more of a study in texture and edges than anything else. Kind of happy with parts of it, and hopeful I can do another one of these in a few years and be able to chart some evolution in this type of stuff too? 🙂