First, an observation. The painting "Curtain" intrigued me, and I made it my desktop wallpaper for a while a couple of weeks ago. Although I certainly can see the curtain contained in the painting, with the yellow floor it resembled to me the edge of a forest, suspended in a dusk sky. It would take a long time to explain this, but certain cirrus cloud formations sometimes (to me) look like broad swaths of deserts with snowcapped peaks. It's merely a matter of perspective shifting, the orange sky is the sand, and the clouds are the mountains reflecting in the distance. It takes effort to see the sky in this way, but while I sound utterly insane it is possible to see this given the correct meteorological conditions and an open mind. Even with the removal of the orange floor (sky) it still looks like a fantastical yet spooky treeline, to me. I guess a lifetime spent looking at and traveling along treelines will do that to a man.Actually, I intended the 'orange floor' to give you the feeling of light, just light, flowing up under and behind the curtain, blocked by the dark heavy line at the bottom, glowing through the top. So I guess it's not a complete failure, if you're getting 'sky' from it.
I look at treelines, too; in fact I have spent my life staring at all things organic, and growing things, and moving around with them as though I could get inside and become them, with the result that now any random mark I make tends to follow some sort of organic pattern, more or less. I'm still not hugely happy with the painting, but after slapping a 'brown-pink' glaze over the bottom yesterday, which somewhat intensifies the glow, I've come to the conclusion that it is what it is, and trying to make it something else will only make it worse. I'm glad you like it.
Ok, for the questions. I have driven past an art school once or twice in my life, and that is the sum of my training. That said, why is it necessary to use canvas, as opposed to other materials to paint on? I understand the material itself is resilient, but isn't it possible to paint on some other surface and achieve the results you want? Aside from black velvet Elvii (is there a plural for Elvis?) prominently displayed at the finer east Texas trucking establishments, I cannot recall anyone using alternate materials for the backing of their work. Is there a reason?In the course of my career, I have painted on:
scraps fetched out of dumpsters
lids of tin cans
lauan (high-quality plywood veneer)
various other types of fabric, including silk, velvet and prints
walls of buildings
Each of these materials takes paint in entirely different ways; it's like a completely different activity, with a whole different set of results. Therefore, once you get good at something and like the results, it's difficult to switch to something else. Perhaps a major reason that most painters paint on canvas, then, is that we're creatures of habit, and basically lazy.
However, I can also tell you that burlap, muslin and bedsheets are for shit; they disintegrate within short order, and the burlap has too loose a weave to hold any detail at all. You have to prime them all, of course, but even under an acrylic primer that could survive nuclear war, they still rot.
Metal is good, except that the paint peels off it. Glass and plastic have the same problem. I know a few people who paint on aluminum.
Wood is great, except that it's heavy. I once made a piece on a construction palette that weighed about forty pounds; it was a nice piece, but schlepping it around was a real pain, and it was impossible to hang on a normal wall. It ended up being a sort of standing sculpture. You don't want your entire oeuvre to be like that; life is difficult enough.
Also, when you paint on a rigid surface like wood, the painting is much easier to damage and much harder to fix. You whump a canvas painting into the corner of a table, it gives. You do the same with a piece on plywood, you get a nice lovely triangular scratch, and the paint color that matches is back in Mexico.
The benefit of wood is that you can use rigid materials like encaustic (wax paint), oil sticks, and collage. It's also much easier to get a perfectly smooth surface.
Cotton duck canvas is the preferred student-grade medium, being cheap and durable. I hate the stuff. It's ugly, and the machine-woven texture is a cliché on the order of a Thomas Kinkade print-on-canvas, pretending to be a real painting. During the many years I used it, I put on so many coats of gesso by hand that the texture was completely eradicated, replaced by a subtle texture made by the marks of my hands. That texture became the basis of the vibratory energy in the painting.
Now I use linen, and a whole lot less gesso. A piece of linen is a gorgeous thing, all by itself; it is organic, irregular, rich and poetic. You put one stroke of paint on it, it already looks like a Degas. So that is what I'm sticking with. Even though it's $150 a roll.
My second stultifying question is style. Dig if you will the picture that does not fall into any of the known "schools" or is an amalgamation of two or perhaps more styles - does this negate the piece because it was not strictly Impressionistic or combined Realism with Surrealism? In addition, if the artist is completely ignorant of both of these schools and yet paints within the confines of a few varying styles does that automatically render his burgeoning masterpiece into a festering piece of shite?Painting in a non-named style, in this day and age, does not 'negate' the piece, unless you mean 'disqualifying it from a plein-air kitsch art fair,' which is a GOOD thing, in the context to which I (and the other artists reading this blog, hopefully) aspire. If you are painting in a recognized style, such as Impressionism or Surrealism, in this day and age, you are not considered an 'artist' by anyone who writes for, or reads, Art in America, Art Forum, the New York Times, or anything in the art blogosphere. You are considered a commercial craftsperson, if you are considered at all.
You see, the one required quality of anything regarded seriously by the avant garde art world is newness. (Do not even get me started on Jeff Koons. Just don't.) The nastiest, most dismissive thing ever repeatedly, snottily said to a struggling art student during critique is, "That's been done." (Or, "that's kitsch," which comes almost to the same thing.) You may, of course, borrow from the vocabulary of recognized styles out of the past, but if you're just making an Impressionistic painting, welcome to Hotel Rooms, Inc.
If the artist is ignorant of style, period, he is termed an 'outsider artist,' ignored while alive, and lionized after he dies, penniless, in a mental institution. See Henry Darger.
I wonder if the lack of training or knowledge would provide the painter a unique, fresh perspective or merely damn the fledgling artist to a life of noisome craft shows and loving renditions of the King?Yes.