I disconnected a bit to plunge into the work. I found that I was majorly stuck, and when I get stuck that means I have to change what I’m normally doing and get into a different rhythm.
This time, I started taking my online oil painting classes in earnest. I have signed up for three different painting classes and I have them to thank for banishing these self-imposed rules/myths to creating art that I was putting towards this collection. I was approaching this body of work with a rather conservative mentality.
Let me explain a little.
I was coming into this collection with the idea that I was going to discover my own unique painting style. I wasn’t thinking of looking to the masters and I was even thinking of staving away from any of my typical influences (Pinterest mostly) to gather inspiration. I wanted the ideas to come entirely from my imagination. I wanted my designs to look like the images that lived in my head.
(Pictured are fragments of ancient Romano-Egyptian glass inlay, image from Christie's)
The truth is that I don’t have formal training in oil painting. I learned how to paint from an artist who had specific methods and those methods have served me well, but it was like having only one person’s point-of-view live in my head. It is part of the motivation for taking online art classes, I wanted to start approaching art in a fresh way.
One of the teachers online said that every master learned from the masters before them, and they did so by creating studies. They went to museums or private collections and drew and recreated studies of past works. It was that idea that made me realize that I am still at a point where I need to continue doing studies of past works. I have seen lots of art growing up and traveling, so thankfully I have an eye for it, but I lack in practice.
The other thing that’s interesting about this thought about creating studies is that my work was never about recreating the whole picture. I always selected a detail of a masterwork and turned that into an earring. In a sense, that is my style. I focus on the details, rather than the whole and it’s in how I crop the masterwork and draw the viewer’s/wearer’s eye to those details that makes my work unique.
I’m in the process of researching and scouring the internet for the perfect image to recreate. I select my masterworks after reading the background of both the art piece and the artist to see if it aligns with what I want to present. I’m curating specific works to not just tell a story, but to create a mood, a theme, and make work that is beautiful and that you’ll want to wear.
So it was in that simple line about studying the works of the Old Masters that made me realize all of this. I'm also learning a lot about how to blend oil paints to create a more dynamic color palette, I’m learning about contrasts and lighting, I’m learning a ton about how to layer the paints to get certain effects and to draw the viewer’s eye to an area. In this, I’ve learned about harmony. I can see that in just the few paintings I’ve done for this collection, the colors, textures, and composition of the piece are much more cohesive than previous projects.
Images of my process. A selection of masterworks (the Romano-Egyptian glass inlay fragments and the Fayum mummy portraits) set into earring forms inspired by pottery shards. I've drawn outlines using my iPad and Apple Pencil to transfer the image to my wood panel.
I’ve also become more accepting of using technology as a step in my process. I used to feel guilty for relying on my iPad and Apple Pencil to draw outlines of the masterworks I wanted to recreate. I kept thinking to myself that I wasn’t a very good painter because I couldn’t eyeball everything. Another one of the classes I’m taking totally debunked that self-imposed myth by showing in one of their lessons how they use iPad/Pencil/Procreate to come up with an image of their work. They quoted it as being ‘contemporary oil painting’ and suddenly I felt like I was a part of something new and exciting.
Around the same time of watching that lesson explaining how to use the iPad to create a rough sketch of your work, I watched a fascinating documentary by David Hockney about the technology used by painters from the Renaissance. In it, I found out that the Renaissance painters had access to a lens that would project the subject they wanted to paint directly on to the canvas. Not only were they able to trace their subject from that projection, but they also were able to see the colors and have exact proportions. The idea that came to me was that if they had access to the technology I have access to now, they would’ve used it too.
I immediately set out to paint this weekend, and I started on recreating the Romano-Egyptian glass fragments pictured above. I'm so excited to share this collection with you, I have finally found my groove and now I'll be plunging into the painting.
That's all for now.