I have struggled for a long time trying to create a video that shows my process of painting acrylics. Most traditional painters, in my line of work, choice oil as their medium of choice. I too had the idea that I was going to do that. But after trying oil paint for a day or 2 I found out that my delicate temple of a human body, could not agree with the fumes and chemicals and turpentine. I simply got headache straight away every time I tried painting in oils. So I stayed with acrylics, but tried to go all kinds of ways to make them behave or end up looking like oils. It was one of my ambitions with the video tutorial, to show people that acrylics was not as stiff and dead a medium as the reputation said it was. Or at least to showcase some of the hoops you could go through to make it behave differently.
The main tool in making acrylic behave softly is the use of an airbrush. Instead of paint you fill the cup with water and use it to spray water on the paint while painting to make it dry less fast, and to make thick paint smoother and easier to blend.
I planed the tutorial so that I would be able to show every step of a painting. I would talk the audience through every step and thought and decision I had along the way. The system and steps I go though in a painting are very tight and planned and has been developed and refined over almost 25 years of painting acrylics…or so I thought.
because when I watched the video I realized that my process is not a t all so tight and schematic as I thought it was. By far actually. I always thought that I would finish an area at a time. Doing the base color and then rendering every element by itself, finishing the hat, then the skin tones, then the beard and so on. But watching myself paint – now undeniably caught on camera – I just seem to go rogue and paint all over the place. I am so much bolder and adventurous in trying things out, than I had allowed myself to be. Meaning I thought I never would do such a thing as trying something that was not a part of the color comp or something that was not solved in a previous step: But seeing the video I astounded myself by just trying different bounce lights and working way more freely and spontaneous than I believed I could.
This all sounds like a smartass pile of bull, when I read it, but I will come to a point. Its incredible to find out that something I consider the absolutely most controlled and analyzed part of my life: my painting process, is not nearly as controlled or conscious as I have led myself to believe.
When it comes to drawing and painting, I have always believed that being self-analytic was the key to success. I have a shelf in front of my desk where I display all my latest paintings, both the good and the bad ones, in order for me to keep them fresh in my mind. I evaluate every painting when its done and try to look at it as if it was another one who did it. I as myself, what could improve this image, how could this guy have strengthen the story or made the image clearer and more easy to read? what’s wrong with the colors and so on: I also praise him for what he did right. The expression is great the simplicity and so on. So when I have my latest 10 paintings in front of me all the time I remember what not to do, by being confronted by my failures and I know which direction to go by seeing my successes. This kind of analyzing every output, is something I have always done and something that I know has kept me grow as an artist and something I know will continue to make me able to create better and better paintings that hits close to the target for me.
The analytic brain is the key here, I went back in and rewatched the whole video again ( turning the volume off, cos there is only so many times you can bear hearing yourself talk and talk ) The last third of the painting where I go spontaneous and start rendering all over the place I guess its the same time the analytic brain kicks in. It seems like I start asking questions. Should this shadow be cooler? will this highlight be softer? perhaps this whole area needs to be darker? and so on. But its not only that, its also the curious questions that gets room. I paint more spontaneous than I would have thought, creating random mistakes and textures that I end up using as dents or “life”. I allow myself to let the control go and become playful. Only to go back in later with the analytic brain and evaluate what can be salvaged from the randomness.
This way of working was something I thought I would never be bold enough to do, especially not on cameras, but seeing it happen makes me realize that I have that free spontaneous way of painting already. Seeing it happened makes me think, that it might have been there hiding for longer than I would have thought and that I have pushed it down and restrained it, in order to keep control at all costs. Not realizing that letting go of the control would lead me to become a more free painter. “Doohh” letting go of control makes you free? why didn’t someone tell me that miraculous secret. I needed to see it for myself.
Not any more. From here on I will let the hand and mind go free. I will allow myself to think out of the rigid system and steps, and just let the brush go on on its own.
And suddenly i remember a conversation I had years ago with my favorite artist Paul Bonner. It was around the time where I was going into digital painting and I was trying to convince him ( and myself ) that it was a right choice. I told him the reason I was buying a Cintiq and starting to paint digital was so that I could be more spontaneous, so that I could break the bonds of a schematic system and just paint more freely. To that Paul said ” Jesper; you CAN just do that with acrylic, it just takes more balls”. Back then it sounded too difficult and like too much of a struggle ( like most of Pauls suggestions ). Now I know I am ready for it.
last night I sketched a rpg figure on my Ipad and went back and watched the replay. Its so different from what I thought my process was: I am way more searching and impulsive than I take credit for. I will start owning it. I will let go.