After several weeks working at the Badg-easel I feel I’m a bit of an expert at horizontal painting, and I’d like to tell you about it. First, to clarify, I’m working with no reference, from the memories of places I’ve painted en plein air. While not totally accurate as to geology, it’s been a surprise how the feelings of places are hard-wired enough that they come back with a little bit of effort.
The trick seems to be re-visualizing a place in the mind’s eye before beginning. Once this is done, and it may take a few minutes, I start with a few of the salient features of the landscape–preferably objects with a fair degree of form that happen to be near the central or focal part of the painting. I then work out from these motifs, paying attention to the balancing of shapes. Thus, the composition evolves according to the sense of design rather than rigid reality.
As readers who have followed my explanations in previous letters will know, I’m fairly sloppy about colour in the early stages and pay more attention to texture and gesture. Working in acrylics, I frequently glaze to tone down or modify (sometimes I have a couple of paintings going at the same time and have an assistant take them and put them on an electric heater behind me). This ploy is also an extension of the oft-mentioned business of putting a work out of sight for a bit, to more readily catch onto its problems.
A surprising bonus of horizontal painting is the almost lackadaisical slowdown. There’s no need to hurry. Contemplation and reconsideration rule. While working slowly and deliberately, I watch other projects unfurl, and I access the headset telephone. Curiously, I don’t stop when visitors drop by. The constant painting may have something to do with coping in the current situation.
Bringing the work to a final consistency of reality and imaginative design is the tricky part. Colour adjustments and design nuances for me can take many tries and always have. For some unknown reason I love fighting my disabilities.
The system might not work for every painter. My position, in an attempt to reignite outdoor experiences, is backed up against a big window. The Badg-easel, with a stretch of the imagination, is not unlike the outdoor contraptions I sit in. Also, parallelling outdoor methodology, I’ve started to substitute unbleached titanium and high-numbered grays for the unpleasant refrigeration of titanium white.
PS: “To be with Nature is to be one with Nature.” (Peter Ewart)
Esoterica: As in Peter’s quote above, nothing beats the spiritual qualities of the great outdoors. An active bird-feeding station on the other side of the glass aids in the fantasy. We are currently serving 14 species of birds plus squirrels and even a very handsome rat. A block of suet can be gone in half a day. Everyone’s presence has a tangible influence on the brush. In the words of my bird-painter friend Fen Lansdowne, “There should always be such things.”
To read a previous letter on how the Badg-easel is set up, please go here.
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