They have minds of their own

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Sometimes it seems paintings decide their own fate.  The first of these two recent completions was a bit of a struggle – something about it just didn’t agree.  Maybe the composition, or the application of paint, or the colour triad (more on that in a second).  Whatever the reason, I went through about 3 full repaints with slightly varying colour schemes (like Cobalt Blue + Diox violet, then Ultramarine + Red oxide, then others…).  The end is more what I’d call a salvage than a masterpiece.  It’s ‘all right.’

Acrylic on canvas, 18 x 24
Acrylic on canvas, 18 x 24

Some paintings are just like that.  They can still be worked on, but largely their success seems to be determined in the first round of composition.  I started a painting last night that I knew would be a success; thanks to a snow-day today, I had time to finish it, in an almost alla prima way – hard to do with acrylics, but made possible by Liquitex slow-dri blending medium (also Golden’s glazing medium, I’ve been testing out the effects of both and will post about that some other tme).  Anyway, this one took me only about 5 hours total, and it was a hell of a good time.  I could’ve spent more time with it, but it seemed quite quickly to have reached a stage of potential overwork: too many brushstrokes, and the energetic feeling would be lost.  That’s what happened to the lake painting, in retrospect.

Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 24
Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 24

One more thing, about colour triads.  Part of the quick success of this winter scene was the colour choice: ultramarine blue, quinacridone gold, and pyrrole red.  Each one of these brings something to the table: the quinacridone gold has a sort of… I guess smokey quality, a burnished yellow and gold depending on the quantity of white you add.  I usually pick pyrrole over napthol, because it’s closer to cad red dark, or medium, which I prefer over lighter, more orangey reds.  And for blues – it can be a toss up between ultramarine and cobalt for something like this, but I ended up just choosing one over the other because it was on hand.  Actually, I lied – I did also use hints of Cerulean for the sky, and Hansa Light for the snow highlights, but only after I’d completed the rest of the painting using the other three.  If you aren’t sure where to go with a painting, choose a strong scheme (any three can work, as long as you’ve got a plan) and just get going from there.

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