Saturday, November 14, 2009

Compose: Selecting a Subject 2

This is a painting I am having difficulty finishing and I am going to use it as an example as I go through the various posts I plan to do on composition. Hopefully at the end of the series I'll resolve the painting by using the information for reflection . There's nothing like a problem to get you thinking.

About the series:
As this piece is part of my Reading a Garden Series, it has to focus on something that stood out to me in my two week stay at Birr Castle Demesne. It must references my understanding /response to some experience. My process in selecting topics to paint starts with culling my photographs taken during my two week stay . Once I knew I wanted to create a work based on the daylilies , I proceeded to choose four photographs to use in image transfers, which I create in gel skins and apply to the board. These would be my starting point, evidence of my "real experiences". ( If you look closely you can see the edges of these transfers. I want them visible.) From these I begin to change the images by adding to them and creating whole new sections using paint and paper or eroding the details they provide until I have captured what I remember (mostly sense memories) from the experience. As more time intervenes I'm forgetting much and embellishing more and more of the details.

In my last post I listed a series of things to consider in selecting a subject to paint. I will try to answer them with reference to this painting. My point is if I had considered them in more depth before I began the work rather than just barging in , I might not be in this trouble. I plan to post the questions next to my paint table for future reminders.

Why are you attracted to the subject? Why does it appeal to you?

This is my fourteenth piece in this series and one of four works focusing on flowers chosen for different reasons.

These Daylilies grew in abundance along a path I walked each day in The Millennium Garden in Birr Castle Demesne. There were orange ones and yellow ones which I photographed on several different days. The vibrancy of the orange/rust ones captured my attention and the yellow ones were left in the background.

Daylilies (hemerocallis) are very interesting structurally. I am attracted to tall graceful plants with more complicated flower structures. The daylily also has long, narrow, blade like leaves that move in the wind and seem to grow in all directions. The most fascinating thing about the flowers on these plants is that they open at sunrise and wither at sunset. Each day new ones are in bloom so you are never seeing the same one twice. It is this point that most interests me because it represents the essence of the temporary nature of beauty and how fleeting our lives are. You have to hand it to daylilies they give it their all for one day.

What emotion grabs you when you look at it? How can you express this emotion?

I'm attracted to their vibrant colour, elegance and freedom to move so readily in the wind. One one hand I like the fact that I'm seeing new blooms every day and the scene is continuously changing, but underneath there is melancholy because they are so short lived and in this way not free at all. I'm conflicted, this is probably why I am having so much trouble finishing this work.

What part of the subject should be emphasized to maximize the emotion /impression?

The colour, elegance, structure and their freedom are easy to emphasize. I am not capturing the transience that is so important to my perception of them. Perhaps I need to refocus and paint one or two obviously withered ones, but I also need to somehow portray the melancholy I feel about these flowers. That is very subtle and right now I'm at a loss about how to show it. I'll keep going with the questions/suggestions ...

What colours/key suits the mood you want to impart?

This might be my area where I have to solve the melancholy issue by toning down the vibrancy. I have really played up the leaves which support the flowers - maybe they are a bit too energetic and playful. The flowers are more low key and seem to be working better with the emotions I am interested in imparting.

What will identify this painting as yours (showing yourself in the painting)?
The process I am using beginning with phototransfers and manipulating them based on the erosion of memory with the passage of time has become a constant in my work of late. The close up, controlled view adds to the me-ness of the work. The subject matter is consistent with my interests and past work.

That's my effort at reflection. I don't want to invest hours into the process because when I reread it tomorrow i'll have a whole new set of ideas. I'm sure the able comments of my readers will move me along with this. Comments anyone?


-Don said...

The melancholy could be suggested by a twilight darkness, that you almost have already, or even a dewdrop that is falling from one of the petals.


hwfarber said...

I have lots of daylilies in my backyard because they're beautiful, sturdy, and require little care.

Your painting definitely portrays their elegance, color and freedom. The daylily probably doesn't experience melancholia or have fear of death--it might even consider its one-day life a blessing.

I would be tempted to convey the human feelings with the title. For me titles are an important part of paintings.

You, I'm sure, will come up with a much better way. I will follow with interest.

dpr said...

Good suggestions. I started to darken the background as you suggested. I'm holding that idea as I work through the the next couple of posts that will help me examine what I'm doing.

hefarber (whose name I need to check)
I 'm sure I'm the one who feels melancholy not the flower. I do want to have some suggestion of it in the painting and I can also give careful thought to the title. I was thinking today that the best solution might be to start over. Sounds drastic but you never know.

Margaret Ryall said...

Hi again,
I just realized I was answering on my husband's account

Kathy said...

Margaret, You are a remarkably skillful painter and know how to ask all the right questions! After reading your response to those questions, I can understand the confusion. It appears to me that you're making two different statements in your painting: one is that you appreciate the vibrant colors and forms of these beautiful flowers, and also that they have a very short life-cycle that reveals the ephemeral quality of their beauty. If it were my painting, I'd pick one of those statements and exaggerate it so that it becomes obvious. In your text, you seem to gravitate toward the ephemeral beauty, which (in my mind) suggests fading beauty as well. Perhaps the dominant brilliant chroma should be subdued and used sparingly to get the point across. More shriveled and faded flowers and leaves, maybe?? Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Hi Margaret, I found you through Katharine Cartwright's blog. Excellent discussion and insight into your development of a painting! Thank you.

Margaret Ryall said...

Excellent observation. I reached the same conclusion. I can't have my cake and eat it too! I will have to decide which it is and go with it with conviction. It was interesting to answer the questions about subject on paper so to speak because it made me think about each aspect. Usually all this happens in my head before I start to work. I guess it is easier to get bogged down in your head.

Hi Peggy,
I've seen you comment on Katherine's blog and bravo for your 20 minute challenge. I'm still just thinking about it.

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