Thursday, February 7, 2008

Artwork of the month: Kandinsky's "Composition #8"

I discovered Wassily Kandinsky in 1996.  It was a portion in my life when I learning how to oil paint.  My work at the time were expressionistic abstract oils, all improvisational and without any preconceived thought.  After Kandinsky I began my work toward compositional oil painting.  Compositional oil painting is not simply working with the surface area of an oil painting, it is a philosophy.

I have traveled to the Guggenheim art Museum in New York seven times now simply to view this one oil painting.  Composition #8 is Kandinsky's peak, it was his best and although his work continued to progress ever forward conceptually, he was never able to reach that height again.

Wassily Kandinsky
Russian, 1866-1914
"Composition #8"
1923, oil on canvas

From this digital picture the lines look hard and solidly defined.  Standing in front of this you can see that they are also delicate and completed the first time the brush hit canvas.  Composition #8 is a treasured work of art and one that I will go spend some time with again very soon.


I should be painting instead of blogging...
...but you are reading so I keep writing.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

2.4.2_On the application of oil paint.



2.4.2  On the application of oil paint.

  All artists have their own method of applying paint to surface.  I propose the painting process to be a meditative experience, where artists learn about Zein and Dasein.  The practice of oil painting for me is somehow magick in that I always learn something about myself, my world and my philosophy.  As it is always different for every artist I can only speak for my own experience within oil painting.  The application process of oil painting is completely a personal choice for the student, and a choice based on conceptual needs for the professional.  
  How the artist creates an oil painting is honestly irrelevant, although understanding the capabilities and limitations of oil paint is a necessary step to become an oil painter.  Essentially a path of experimentation and dogma for the oil painter, and a must.  For the artist running away from dogma and relying on pure intuition can accomplish many great works, but without a deep study of the traditional methods of oil painting that artist will never evolve any farther than their own sense of self.  Through trial and error the oil painter will find the qualities and limitations of each type of oil color.  Oil painting is a philosophical and spiritual undertaking, painting is revealing of the artists character if even only for a moment.  Working with oil paints teaches us our truths.
  Regardless of personal preference, painting with oils does have a few guidelines that an artist should at least know and practice before moving on toward individualism.  The first of those traditional understandings is that oil painting is sculpting.  Oil painting is sculpting in that the artist builds a surface by applying layers of oil color.  Starting with a thin application of oil color by working in the pigment evenly over the canvas, not adding too much paint but working with what small amount that was originally applied.  Now you have to wait.  
  Oil painting is patience.  The application of thin amounts of paint at first and eventually adding more paint give can only happen in the drying process.  You must wait for the first layer of paint to dry on the surface before you can apply subsequent layers.   I suggest you sit back and look on in silence at your work between applications.  Truly investigate your work as it gets closer to completion.  
  You paint with your mind.  All editing and decision making toward a composition is done in your minds eye.  Working with oil paint is a process of underpainting, and overpainting.  While you wait for your painting to dry between working sessions, the real work, conceptually organizing your composition in your mind takes place.  The first few applications of paint are initially filling in the teeth or weave of the canvas surface.  
  Lastly, the application of oil paint depends on the artists ability to sculpt.  traditionally sculpting is the teacher to the student of oil painting.  The oil painter must periodically sculpt, as it reminds him of the full content of the forms, and reestablish the concept of a surface.
  These traditional methods of applying oil paint may have not seamed to be about physically painting at all.  Albeit, they are the traditional means in which the student of oil painting learns how to paint.  Fortunately, the oil painter is born knowing and acts accordingly when reminded by his mentor who was once reminded by his.