Having just viewed the Matisse exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I am even more committed to the practice of the search for “True Painting”. The Matisse exhibit features not only numerous versions of a single idea but also a photographic record of at least 8 iterations of what became one of his iconic paintings. The exhibit reveals that Matisse questioned, repainted and reevaluated his work. In his own words, Matisse wanted to “push further and deeper into true painting”. Seeing the exhibit made me realize that Matisse also struggled with composition, color, line and ultimately the fine tuning of the final image. Whew! It’s not just me!
Like Matisse, (and I feel audacious to compare myself) I begin every painting with an idea, a concept, a message I want to convey. The process begins with the quest to tell that particular story. I have found quick studies to be the most effective vehicle to hone the idea down to it’s most concise visual message.
The initial study is a very basic drawing in a sketchbook addressing the question of composition. I explore various arrangements of shapes and values with a goal to find a solution that offers balance and flow. Sometimes I end up with several versions of the design that include vertical or horizontal options with either a low or a high horizon lines. Once a composition is formatted in pencil, I begin to address the color options with more studies.
More about color studies in the next post.