Art Retro #2: Climbing the Mountain.
Ah, blessed failure. Beloved disappointment. It’s important to celebrate when things don’t quite work out as intended and share that with the world. Remember? The process is as interesting and important as the output itself (I ruminate on this point a bit more in-depth when I kicked off the retrospectives).
The mountain. Right. I suppose the title gives away the fact that I’m not 100% thrilled with how this one turned out, but it was a process worth documenting so here we are.
It all started with a nice photo of Yosemite.
I’ve always loved mountains, something about the energy and scale to one’s self. They are very humbling and remind us of the age of our planet as well as eons of energy that have seeped out to form such grand structures. So yea, it’s nice to try and reflect that in art.
The idea was to try and create some abstracted interpretations that conveyed these feelings. So the starting point was a larger canvas size, going with the 36” X 48” scale.
A couple things I wanted to accomplish in this piece from the start:
* Introduce spray paint in some form.
* Diverge from natural ‘mountain’ colors in favor of a wider palette
Working from the photograph, the main elements that stand out are the 2 opposing faces of the mountain and the treelike in the foreground. For the main planes of the mountain, I had the idea to use a warm and cool palette to contrast between these. Instead of trying to interpret every subtlety of the rock, I chose an easier approach to express the verticality of the monument with long motions.
After roughing in the forms, this is where I was at after the first few passes. I probably should have stopped shortly after this point in retrospect (no pun intended, yet again!).
For materials, I was using all Arteza acrylics at this point which are quite good for the amateur painter. However, the smaller tubes don’t lend themselves to larger pieces or impasto techniques, which may have produced a better result even at this stage. Live and learn.
Onwards and upwards! No pun intended.
Or in this case downwards. I wanted to try and create this flowing effect, almost a melting of the mountain facades using long brush strokes and several layers of varying thicknesses.
As for the foreground, well, I was lost. At first, I wanted just an ultra-minimal gesture of a treelike sitting proud of the peak.
This didn’t really work.
I introduced the wrong color and it went downhill quickly from there. Again - no pun intended! I tried adding in some color to help tie it back to the mountain and give some more life to the foreground.
The great thing about acrylic or any paint for that matter is you can cover it quite easily and give it another rip.
This f*ing foreground took at least 4 good rips for my artistic cost/benefit function to get above zero. For all you nerds out there, f(x) = pleasure - energy. Keep going until you can’t or lose hope.
You can see the foreground iterations evolve throughout this project commencing in a chaotic mess symbolic of my frustration at that point.
For the other elements of the work, I wanted to try and achieve a stark contrast against the very loose organic forms, so very linear and proper.
I used masking tape to block out several areas of the background to create several long rectangular forms to give balance to the piece while also attempting to frame the mountain with some depth. I would say this ended up being 50% successful.
After a few rounds of adding background forms and reworking the mountain coloring, it was almost time to wave the white flag, but there was still something missing.
My default for these moments is leaning on my enamels and squirt bottles. However, spray paint was just calling my name.
But since there was little left to lose, why not both?
I added first some red spray paint (which I love) to give the mountain an aura and obviously a rebellious feel. It’s fun.
I also decided to blackout one side of the background to continue the dual-color motif of the mountain. Really just instinct, and when I look at this now it may have been nice to make the entire background black.
As finishing touches, I pulled out the white enamel and also mixed a soft body red with some pouring medium for some added flair.
Piece done. March 2019. Mixed media on 36”x48” canvas.
1. Don't overwork the piece. Know when to walk away.
2. Sometimes less is more. Channel Mies van der Rohe.
3. Masking tape is fickle. Assume it will bleed under.
If you're interested in purchasing the original or print, please drop a line here!
Level 1 Artist Canvas (Michaels) - wait for a BOGO deal.
Soft Body Acrylics (Liquitex) - These are very vivid and great with the pouring medium IMO.