I’ve been drawn out of the city this week, north of the Golden Gate Bridge. My mind is consumed with all of the possibilities of landscape. I’ve been really trying to increase my knowledge of composition and am experimenting with a number of different landscape paintings. I feel like the arrangement of elements can tell a story more than I ever have in the past. It feels empowering to read about art and try to plug in to what other painters were thinking. I’m sure I’ll have more to share next Friday. As always, thank you for reading.
There is something that just feels right about drawing or simply making marks. If you ask most people about drawing they almost immediately say something like, “I can’t even draw a stick figure.” It can be very hard to suspend judgement of the drawings that we make, but it can feel amazingly good to let go and let the images come out freely. So this week, I’ve taken time to explore with just a pencil and paper. This is a drawing of my wife from an afternoon that we spent near Napa, CA.
I’ve spent much of the last week thinking about composition. Over the last year, I’ve mostly painted scenes from around San Francisco with a focus on buildings, streets, and city life. The compositions are dominated by sharp vertical and horizontal lines. Shadows and trees are often the only soft and organic elements. I went back to Baker Beach and did this painting of the Golden Gate Bridge on a clear day. There are still vertical and horizontal constructed elements but it feels more relaxed than my paintings of the city. The curve of the shoreline, the groups of trees, and the color shifts in the sand all create a pathway through the painting that I feel really good about.
I’ve been trying to see things in terms of major color groups along with light and shadow as I walk around the city. In the past, I’ve spent lots of time on paintings without thinking about the structure that underlies the work and those paintings end up in a pile with others that “just don’t feel right.” I’ve never been drawn to instructional materials that resemble a recipe or formula for creating art but reading about composition and looking at the way successful paintings are put together feels empowering and fascinating. It seems that lines and the weight of visual elements can make your eyes move in and out of a picture and create balance or unbalance in an unlimited number of ways.
When reading, I can appreciate an author taking some liberties and playing around with language to enhance the readers understanding or enjoyment of a story. I can also appreciate when language is succinct. There is a rhythmic and poetic quality to the writing of a great author whether they are verbose or concise. My latest efforts drawing and painting have been focused on squeezing as much poetry as I can out of just a few lines.
I spent some time at the beach this week drawing the Golden Gate Bridge and some gestures. When drawing from a real-life situation, it’s impossible to reproduce every detail. I think the best anyone can do is to capture a sense of feeling. The more I work at drawing and painting and the more I study the work of others, I’m convinced that I should focus my efforts on simplifying and letting go. With these drawings and all of my recent work, I’m hoping to capture a sense of life with as few lines as possible.
Lately, one of the most interesting aspects of painting has been trying to find a middle ground between unfinished and overworked. I feel like I’m edging closer to being comfortable with my process. It’s about finding the right state of mind and being able to stay in that space for longer and longer periods of time. It’s also about identifying when the moment has passed and I need to take a break to refocus.
I’ve been including people in all my recent paintings and it feels like discovering a new language. I was so struck by the beauty and variety of buildings in San Francisco that, for a while, I was ignoring its residents. Now I find myself paying more attention to the relationship that people have to the places they live. It’s interesting to notice how one influences the other…
I think that, for me, knowing when to stop might just be the most important factor in a drawing or painting. I’ve overworked so many paintings, thinking that I could make them better by filling in just a little more information. I think the truth is that my work is usually strongest when I can convince myself to make it quickly and leave it alone for at least a day or two, at which point I might add a detail that makes it more striking. Working on a painting while it’s all still wet and letting washes bleed into each other can feel like walking on a tightrope, where one false step can lead to disaster, but it can also give the work a greater sense of unity. I feel that one of my strongest tools is leaving a washed surface alone and letting the viewer fill in the details. It’s all about knowing when to stop.
I want to say thank you to all of the people that read and comment on these posts. Your support and encouragement are awesome! Just a reminder, please check out my Etsy store, ArtFromBrian, if you are interested in purchasing any of the work on this site. Thanks again!
Drawing in ink and combining it with watercolor has become my favorite way to paint lately. The freedom of letting colors and edges run together is interesting and each painting feels experimental. I’m always trying to land the work on a point of balance between controlling the painting with learned technique and discovering passages that emerge naturally.
I spent more time sketching in the Haight-Ashbury district this week. I’m still working on getting loose and understanding how to work with watercolor. Mindfulness and letting go seem to be the biggest parts of making images that feel authentic to me. I’m feeling good about where my work is heading and I’ll be posting more in the coming weeks. Thank you for your comments and encouragement.
I’ve been working on some watercolor sketches lately. I’m starting with a pen and ink drawing and adding a limited amount of watercolor. It’s an interesting exercise to go through each drawing and decide which areas to paint and what to leave alone. Pretty happy with the results and hope to incorporate some of the sketch qualities into more finished paintings. Thanks for looking!
It has been a couple of weeks since my last update. In the past two weeks I have traveled to visit family and moved to a new apartment where my studio space is much bigger. It takes a bit of time to settle in but I’m very excited to have a much bigger space in the same neighborhood. In the mix of everything, I’ve still managed to do a bit of drawing and painting. I’ve been experimenting with using washes more loosely and letting go of details outside of a confined space. Always a work in progress, but I’m feeling good about how things are moving.
Also, the opening reception last Friday at the Collector Art Shop in Berkeley, CA went very well with several paintings selling prior to the reception and a great turnout. Hopefully, there will be more shows to report on in the future and my current works will be up until June 28th.