Friday, September 10, 2010

Memory Painting results

Memory painting done in class.

The class yesterday was very interesting, and a couple of the students had small breakthroughs as a result of it. That always pleases me.

Original photo with Photoshopped changes.
Let me review what I did. To begin with I Photoshopped my original picture, moving the tree closer to the center, and playing with the contrast and color saturation in the foreground and mountain.

Photo taped on top of paper.
At class I taped my paper, UART 400, to my board and then taped the photograph directly on top of it. They were close to the same size, which meant I could "see" the image on the paper.

I ran my hand over the photo as I spent ten minutes looking at it, finding the movements I would use to draw it. I repeatedly traced the top of the mountain, the area where the tree sits, and the shapes of the clouds. Notice that I taped it a little higher on the page, knowing I could add foreground easily and this would place the mountain top above center. I found the most effective thing was to simply spend time looking at the picture and describe to myself what I saw there.

I put the photo out of sight after ten minutes and began a charcoal sketch on the paper. There's a certain distress you can begin to feel when you don't have a photo to look at, but the idea is to make a painting that's a memory of the photo, not a copy of it, so I force myself to paint through that uneasy feeling, making it my own.

Initial charcoal sketch.
I made my first color layers very lightly, leaving plenty of room for more color layers and changes. After about a half hour I took a break to evaluate the painting. I wanted to change the clouds, which seemed boxy and similar in shape (two and two), and I had lost the shape of the shadowy mountain top that I particularly enjoyed.

Color layer @ 30 minutes.
Then I put another half-hour to forty-five minutes into the painting to arrive at the 'finished' painting you see at the top of this blog post. When I was nearly through I walked away from the painting, took out the original photo and spent a minute examining the shadowed mountain, where I couldn't recall the shapes. I then put the photo away and walked back to my easel to tweak those shapes.

I like it a lot because it isn't like the photograph, though it has the DNA of it, so to speak. I may yet do a few more touches to it--and no, I won't look at the photo! This is my own version of this place now. You understand that this is a view I see quite frequently as I drive from my home o the city, so I can analyze a lot about it from memory.

One student told me that she felt she had suddenly made a connection with just how much she relies on the photograph for information.  There's some real freedom in painting this way, once you get past that urge to check to see what's 'right.' Another told me she felt she had discovered that by using some of the measuring tools shown in the last blog post she had found the shapes and was able to feel free to make the painting her own.

Below is some of the student work in progress during the class. Great stuff!

Betty's memory painting.

Kris's memory painting.

Gina's memory painting.

Keep going, gang,


  1. Wow, I didn't know about this blog! It's fun!

    Thanks for sharing everything you're doing with the class. I live in another part of the country, so I won't be able to attend anytime in the foreseeable future -- but this is awesome. I love the exercises you've come up with and may try some of them at home.

  2. Glad you joined us to see what's going on, Robert. The idea is that anyone who wants to can virtually join us. If you play along at any point, let me know..!