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  • James Gummerson

This Artistic Process: Day 3 - Tension On And Off The Canvas.

So it's day 3 and I'm about 75% of the way complete. The houses as you can see in the background are almost complete. Usually a painting like this takes about 2 to 3 days but I'm slowing the process down a bit so I can better explain and show the process involved.

I did mention in my last post that I would explain more about my compositional ideas into the work.

So a few things about this composition. First off I like large areas of dark and light. In fact Manet once said something to the effect several times "find the Large areas of dark and light... the rest is unimportant". In this piece there is large areas of the painting in dark shadow. I find it creates a sense of tension. Actually I would say that one of my favorite elements of composition is "tension". Tension is created in several ways and in my work I do it mainly through my brush strokes and placement of dark and lights. Since a large portion of the painting is covered in shadow, it creates an uneasiness. This is the tension I love so much. It adds excitement and though a person viewing it may not be able to articulate what they are feeling when they look at the painting... their brain is saying "Whoa! Something is not right, I feel a little uncomfortable". You can go too far with tension too but I suppose it all depends on what your trying to say.

My brush strokes also create a sense of tension as well. Although not as much in this painting, they are usually quite chaotic. I like to paint thick and fast. As you can see in the photo, the paint is very thick or "impasto" as it is referred to. I love the texture and blending it creates. The movements of the brush though the paint are quick and less methodical. Almost spontaneous and this is where the tension comes in. Sometimes the brush will slice through a particular section of the painting and in other places its more controlled. That movement of slicing and control create that sense of uneasiness. This is where I love to play.

As far as details go, I opt out. In fact I have put the details aside for the most part, years ago. A lot can be said on this subject but as for me, I found that focusing so persistently on the details got in the way of creating and enjoying the process. As you can see in the painting below, this was the kind of painting I worked hard at. I once spent a year working on a piece off and on and by the time I was finished... all the excitement and inspiration and thoughts about the piece were simply no longer there. I like to paint so that the viewer knows that they are looking at a painting. I want them to see my strengths as well as my weakness. It creates in my opinion a human quality that some of my super realistic paintings just do not have. You can also be more expressive with your work and the way you lay down the paint. I'm not saying that all super representational work is void of expression but just that my older highly detailed work lacked spontaneity that I was looking for. I am reminded of Tom Thompson's work and the group of seven. Their work was so expressive and in my opinion and some of Thompson's best are his field paintings. On the other side is Andrew Wyeth who's work was so details but have an incredible amount of feeling and expression. I guess it's just what your nature is.

I do feel though that an artist needs to find himself artistically and grow. Without growth we die and I believe this is true for artists as well. I'm still growing I suppose, but have begun to feel a little more comfortable with my work and were it is going. I don't let my ego get in the way as much as it used to. I try to look more for the process and create something that will describe how I felt when I was living. Sometimes that doesn't always translate to sales... but it sure is good for the spirit. All that said I must admit though this painting doesn't exactly push the boundaries of art. But hell, paintings are not always about pushing boundaries as it is an expression of who we are.

I'll end off with a quote by Andrew Wyeth who once said "One's painting only goes as deep as their emotions".

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