Planning and sketching

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170304 Globe (2017) oil on canvas 100 x 75.5cm

I wanted to paint a globe so I could paint the oceans with a wide brush (20cm) and the latitude/longitude lines with a narrow brush. I made a couple of pencil sketches before I began and sketched an outline on the canvas before painting.

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170304 Globe in progress

I used the same method to make 170227 Pinocchio in Love (below).

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170227 Pinocchio in Love in progress (2017) oil on canvas 117.5 x 100cm

This way of working turns the painting process into a kind of filling-in-and-surface-rendering. I tend to stick too closely to the sketch. Even when I recognise compositional problems I try to massage them a little this way or that, rather than making big alterations which, had I done, might have been more beneficial. I become inflexible.

A different approach is to improvise, erase, and overpaint, freely, until arriving at a point where it feels right to stop. I’ve seen videos of Amy Sillman and John Hoyland working this way, and in this documentary Philip Guston points to a painting and remarks that there were several other paintings made underneath, scraped away and painted over, and that that was normal for the way he worked.

I have only used that approach twice. Once resulted in a picture that I don’t like at all. The other is this Alien Antenna picture (below), which I still like. This picture convinces me to resist making a plan for the next painting I make.

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170122a Alien Antenna (2017) oil on canvas

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