Back to “bigger” paper …


I make images.

Duh, I make images. Sometimes though I make images that you could almost call objects; like my shaped panel painting. Most of the panel paintings are just that, paintings on panels. But the ones I bolt together into non-rectangular shapes might qualify even more as “object” than image. Other works that might be considered as “objects” are the larger of my mylar drawings. the ones that cascade off the wall or ceiling and onto the floor.

But for many years, I worked on paper. Sometimes pretty big paper.

I regularly worked on paper that was 40×60 or 30×90 or larger. Starting in the 1990s, I usually worked on paper sheets that were a bit smaller … measuring around 30×40.

Abundance,-26x40,-watercolor-and-pencil-on-paper,-2012-13,-WEB

Abundance
Watercolor and pencil on paper, 26×40
(as of September 1st, 2013)

Well every now and then I return to that 30×40 way of working. I am not sure if I do it for comfort? … as a self-diversion? … or if there is a deeper reason?  I just KNOW that sometimes I want to work on a single large uninterrupted sheet of paper. The expanse of the surface excites me; the response of wet color or dry mark to the paper entices me. More easily than any other medium, working on a beautiful sheet of paper with materials I enjoy, I become entranced. Reverie!

This piece, Abundance, had it’s genesis a while back, late in 2011 if I remember. It began on a crisp, cool clear day in a narrow glen of western-central Virginia, below a mountain ridge known for it’s ski resort … Wintergreen. I was with my wife and “mi mum” and we had stopped for lunch when I spotted the wild looking group of bushes and a gnarled tree. The grey, nearly leafless bush was full of red berries. There were so many good vantage points with this subject. But … I was with family … so I made a quick sketch and several photographs. The little finished sketch was exhibited in a show during the fall of  2012.

Group-of-Sketches-on-the-wall,-WEB   Below-the-Ridge,-Nellysford,-WEB

This larger painting I began while that show was still up. I even showed it, in a less finished state, in December and into January of this year.  But, when it came back to the studio, I just wasn’t sure that it was done.

I set it on a drawing board in my studio and I looked at it. I looked at it from January to June.

Let me explain my quandary. I am frankly always leery of overworking a piece but I want to create a visual feast as well.  I do subscribe to an esthetic common in traditional oriental painting … leaving white space in a work, going for an understatement. It is also at the core of early western classicist’s and early modernist’s desire to seek and to express what they view as the essential in an image/object. Probably that is why I am so very drawn to the works of Charles Demuth and Paul Cezanne. They made lots of marks and layers (visual feast) … but always seemed to leave room for the work to breathe, for the viewers eye to roam, and the viewers minds to complete the image (essence). To me, it seems rude and silly to beat the audience into submission by rendering every single detail.

Even when I was young, the end results of demonstration artworks in “how-to” art books felt disappointingly over-done. (I usually liked the work at step #3 or #4 better than #6+) Well, with this one, I feel like if I take it much farther … it will be overworked. Can’t have that!

For now, I have moved it to a less active corner of the studio. I will look at it for a while again; just like I did from January to June. Hopefully I will decide more quickly than that if I want to return and do something else with this piece.

Yes, I do think it MIGHT be finished.  What I am asking is … is it essential? … is it a feast for the eyes?

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8 Responses to “Back to “bigger” paper …”

  1. ganza_art Says:

    I totally understand your excitement about big canvases! Being mural artist I just love to paint on buildings!!! And papers of a2 and smaller are considered tiny!!!

    • johnahancock Says:

      I remember back in college, and for a few years afterwards, doing lots of painting that measured about 18 inches x 24 inches in size (45×61 cm) … just about the same as the a2 scale. My young art colleagues at the time asked why I worked “large” all the time. It did not seem big to me at the time. Today, I tend to work both much smaller OR much larger … A4 to A6 or A0 to double that size. (You can see the smaller pieces at: http://www.johnahancock.com/sketches.html)

  2. jean sampson Says:

    Well, you know that my paintings usually go through many deaths and re-births before i declare them possibly finished —so do my poems!. So I totally understand your not being able to decide if the painting is done or not. I usually just dive in and stir something up but that is in oil paint, not watercolor. Good luck with this one, John. Of course, you could always paint a companion color piece to go beside it. It might actually be a nice touch! 🙂

    • johnahancock Says:

      Your advice is, always, sage … and likewise, your encouragement is much appreciated.
      In fact I have to get off my duff and get more BIG drawings done on mylar. For delivery to Mary Baldwin in early January … and a few more multi-panel painting pieces done for a show in PA by late January. So this one HAS to take a backseat for a while!

      See you soon.

  3. jean sampson Says:

    I am teaching on Monday and Tuesday nights so I WILL see you soon!

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