Art, Design, and the Long Conversation: Day Two of the White House Painting

In writing, there’s the adage never to share a work in progress. One could say it’s because everyone’s a critic, and the idea is to insulate the sensitive creative mind from undue outside influence. It’s the artist as genius argument. Another way to look at it is the more cynical view of the writer hiding the influence of the editor. Take Raymond Carver for example. When the true role of his friend and editor, Gordon Lish, came out, something shocking became apparent. That brilliantly stark, concise, potent style of his was the result of significant editing, sometimes up to 70%. This laid bare something that I see regularly in my day job: creativity is often best realized through collaboration. In a sense, it is a conversation with an output in mind.

Graphic designer Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich in his Design Matters interview, distinguishes art and design sort of along those lines: art is something done for yourself by yourself, while design is done with others for others. But how different are they really? I have come to think of art as a long beautiful conversation that spans generations and civilizations. Wouldn’t it be nice to some day be able to move that conversation, even slightly?

All of that was a way for me to lead into saying it is both awkward and exciting to share something in progress. It’s a micro-level engagement in the long conversation with friends.

I have a better feeling about this painting today. I had a realization this morning that allowed me to get more comfortable with it: I was approaching a big project with the tools and techniques fit for a small one. That reads like an after the fact justification for me buying a new brush today–a Princeton Neptune #6 quill. It takes a lot of water and flops around while still holding a point, which allows for both large but controllable washes and some nice foliage shapes for some under painting. I used it for this evening’s work, which included:

1. Adding Prussian Blue over the Phthalo blue in the sky to give it more character.
2. Adding a wet haphazard mix of Pthalo Green (PG7), Primary Red Magenta, and Permanent Yellow Deep to the foliage in front, then salting it.
3. Masking out the fence and window panes, as well as some while I wanted to retain in the trees.
4. Washing in the lawn, and blotting out a place for the tree on the right.
5. Fixing the drawing in a few places. I decided not to get too carried away, and just let whatever happens happen when I paint.
6. Splattering and dabbing in the base layer for more pronounced leaves.

That’s it for tonight as I let things dry. I think I will save the house details for last, so tomorrow is likely to be defining the trunks, branches, and leaves more fully.

Thanks for reading.



6 thoughts on “Art, Design, and the Long Conversation: Day Two of the White House Painting

  1. laber1 April 25, 2013 / 7:00 am

    The concept of sharing during the process instead of waiting until it is done goes against my own training (and yours via me), but your way takes guts! You also explain as you go why you are doing what you are doing. Thus the conversation invitation–to talk about the process perhaps rather than the work. That’s a better way. Thank you, again, for bringing something new to my own creative process.

    • coreyaber April 25, 2013 / 6:23 pm

      Sure. I think I will try this with a story soon. I had a few ideas I didn’t pursue at the time. I am thinking of them again because they would go well with some watercolors.

  2. davidtripp April 25, 2013 / 1:06 pm

    You have the making of a fabulous watercolor underway. I love the reference photo and can sense your excitement. I know all-too-well that sense of pause when it comes to sharing work-in-progress. As you well know, I do it, and often am concerned, when working on something for over a week, that I am saturating my blog with picture after picture of the same composition under construction, seemingly at times one brick at a time. I have gotten good feedback from doing it, but I could very well be turning other readers off, I don’t know. But I can honestly say I appreciate your updates, especially that you let us know what you are thinking as well as what you just did, and how you did it. I’m really glad you found my blog. Yours is now giving me daily sustenance. Thank you.

    • coreyaber April 25, 2013 / 8:27 pm

      Thanks David.

      Seeing your work in progress photos has been very instructive because they help me think about the order in which to work, and because they give me confidence in knowing that in the end things will work out well.

      By the way, I was trying to find some examples on your blog of large foliage masses to see what I could learn now that I am tackling that problem, and it seems your archives have disappeared. I like the way you handle these better than the other references (even Homer) I have used. Fortunately, I was able to find your Fort Worth stockyards painting, which gave me some ideas. We’ll see soon if I am able to do what I am thinking of now, but even if not, I wanted to thank you for that one.

      • davidtripp April 25, 2013 / 9:02 pm

        I wasn’t aware of the archive disappearance. That would be unfortunate. I think some of my better foliage masses are on my website I was happy with the Fort Worth Flatiron and the Ghosts of Eureka Springs Past.
        Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

      • coreyaber April 27, 2013 / 5:37 pm

        Thanks for guiding me to your favorites. I can see why they are. I now have a few more ideas for how I might want to handle things differently with more planning next time. My final post for this painting will cover what I learned, so I won’t get into that now, but thanks again.

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