Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Texture

Some time ago I gave myself a challenge. One that would take my painting to the next level. My still lifes needed that it factor to make them stand out from the rest of the other still lifes out there. Compositions needed to have angles to allow the eye to move around the whole picture space. I do love painting single subjects, like one tomato, onion or even a pear; and the contemplative effect they get does satisfy me, but there needs to be more to my painting. One day I became a little daring and decided to include a kitchen towel on one of my still lifes. After it's completion, Yellow Onion in Bowl became my best painting yet. There was light, angles, tension, and the texture of the towel. I was not sure how I ever finished that piece, a lucky shot I thought. No matter what, I found what I had been looking for. Now I had to execute a follow up. It took some time before I got to work on a piece that would rival the Onion painting. I got my act together, put my fear of failure aside and started work on Yellow Heirloom Tomato, which is still in progress.

After spending some time with this new painting, which has been months, I keep putting it aside. Every time I start working on the texture of the towel where the heirloom tomato sits on, I get scared. I keep thinking of the onion painting and ask myself "how the hell did I do it?" I wish there was a straight forward answer to that, but there's not. There was no special technique I used. I just kept plowing away, piled paint on top of paint, rubbed it off, added more paint and then some more until I got it right. I thought about it for a moment and realized that I went through the exact pain when painting the first towel. I have to just keep painting until I get it right. But how can I recreate the texture of a towel without getting too cheese?

Henri Regnault, Salome, 1870, oil on canvas, 63 x 40 1/2 inches, Gift of George F Baker, 1916 (16.95), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
I needed some guidance, and went in search of inspiration to my sanctuary, the Met Museum. I was on a mission to look at a Vermeer painting, but as I searched through the galleries for useful information I ran into Henri Regnault's Salome. This was not the first time I stood in front of this painting, it is actually a very memorable one due to its lush use of golden yellow. The illusion of gold satin or some other shimmery fabric is impressive. But I was not there to look at satin effects, although it wouldn't hurt for future reference. I was there to look at rug treatments and other rough textiles. But there it was, before dismissing the painting I saw the treatment of the rug below Salome. Regnault had piled so much paint on the canvas that the mounds start taking on the feel of a shaggy rug. Looking closely I could see that he did not do it in one sitting. There were many layers of paint. This made me wonder if he had a special technique or did he work at it until he was pleased with what he saw? By the looks of the layers of paint, he worked at it until it felt like a rug.

Henri Regnault, Salome, (detail)

Vermeer, Young Woman with a Water Pitcher, ca. 1662, oil on canvas, 18 x 16 inches, Marquand Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
My main reason for visiting the Met was this painting by Vermeer. It's easy to see why I needed his hep in solving my texture problem. Vermeer and other Flemish painters of his time had a great interest in Oriental rugs. The designs and color schemes offered a great way of creating amazing compositions with bold patterns and colors, and yes texture. But there is a way that Vermeer used to treat his paint when dealing with rugs and other textiles. There's always a subtle touch, a mixture of broad shapes of color and little dabs here and there. Unlike Regnault, Vermeer did not use the physicality of paint to recreate the texture of his rugs. My admiration for Vermeer's technique is the way he juxtaposed different hues here and there to create the desired texture. The surface of his canvas always remains some what flat, only with a few touches rise from the surface if at all.
Vermeer, The Art of Painting, c. 1962-68, oil on canvas, 47 1/4 x 39 3/8 inches, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
Probably Vermeer's greatest masterpiece, The Art of Painting, displays all of this master's abilities. Layers of different elements come together to form this great work of art, and to the forefront of all of these elements is a richly painted hanging tapestry. It must be breath taking to stand in front of this painting and witness first hand the mastery of paint Vermeer possessed. The handling of his medium is very delicate, there is no need to pile texture paint here, all is color against color. This soft touch is what I need, but we all have to find our own means of executing our work. I will keep working on the towel, and although I've built so much paint in some areas already, I will keep Vermeer's soft touch in mind.

10 comments:

::Alejandro:: said...

Luis, I think you're attaining your goal of 'taking your painting to another level' ... there's a depth and movement in the textures of kitchen towel, and contrast of colors between it and the onion. I am enjoying seeing your progression and growth as an artist. I expect many more great paintings in 2008. ¡Feliz Año - más vale tarde que nunca! Un abrazo.

ming said...

painters are thinkers! the towel is more brilliant then i could ever have imagined it to be.

Paula said...

Oh I cannot begin to tell you how much I enjoyed this post. Vermeer is wonderful.

The process you described in trying to get what you finally want, I call "painting myself into a corner". I am nowhere near the accomplished artist that you are but I can appreciated the emotion of trying to get to that perfect place in a work.

I'm really impressed by the towel.

Keep writing, your words inspire me to be better and not expect so much from myself all at once. To step back and study, think, then go back and try some more.

Luis Colan said...

Hey Alejandro, long time no talk! Thank you for the comment, I'm glad you see the progress of my work, sometimes I don't but then again that's my job, to be over critical. Feliz Ano nuevo a ti tambien!!!
Hey Ming, another familiar name I haven't heard from in a while. Yes painters are thinkers, that much I agree. But some of us are blessed with great thoughts and some of us like me always think about what's for dinner? lol
Paula, thank you for stopping by and leaving your thoughts. Vermeer is a great painter and one of my favorites! His luminosity is what I'm after. I'm very happpy to hear you find inspiration in my "words". That's very humbling in a way, I post my thoughts and images of my work just to share who I am as a painter. Not expecting people to learn much from me, or like you, be inspired; but it does feel good to know that there are some who see my blog posts as more than just pass time reading. Thank you!

Iggi Art said...

Well, I like your stuff! Brilliant, estrange, of exquisite facture... I’m from South America, my work is some dark and funny (it´s rare mixing) if you have time, please visit my gallery on...

www.iggiart.blogspot.com

Austin Maloney said...

I agree wit Alejandro. Their's a real depth in your work.

Paula said...

I've been back to read this post several times now. There is something in your words that feels so satisfying. I may print it just to have in my studio if you don't mind.

Pajara Pinta said...

Wooow... I arrived here from the blog of Mauricio *collage*, and I got surprised when I saw this painting "Salome", I lived in NY 2 years ago for 5 years, and used to visit the Met very often, from many of my favourite paintings this was one I just couldn't belive the amount of detail it has..... you just made me remember... Now I live in Mexico City and I have a blog on children Illustration you might like... www.caracarmina.blogspot.com.

I'll come again with more time to see your work...

I also paint btw... but the children art is just my favourite...

any ways

I give you a sneeze and a Platipus as a tribute...

I fly Away...

*pajara pinta means red bird, that's me

Luis Colan said...

hello everyone, thank you for your comments, I appreciate the feedback. I have taken the time and become familiar with your work, will be in touch soon.

Joanne Mattera said...

Hi, Luis--
Really nice post and lovely work.