Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Jacking Pablo

Well, that was a long post yesterday. Apologies - I'm new to this. Fortunately for you, I'm really busy today, so it will be no trouble keeping this short.

When I started painting in a serious sort of a way, I first spent a lot of time looking at Sargent. I actually think this is a problem among my contemporaries. Too much Sargent! More on that another time. I eventually shifted to the holy trinity: Rubens, Velazquez, Titian.

I spent a few years looking at them. But it turned out I had a lot more time to look and think about art than the Big Three had paintings available for me to look at. You can't look at the same thing all the time, even if you haven't run out of lessons to learn from it. So, against my will, I had to broaden my tastes. I looked at a lot of painters.

Lately, I've been so busy I haven't really looked at other painters. I've just been focussed on painting, so the only painter I've been learning from is me. The air was getting stale. Then the other evening I was in Barnes and Noble, as is my wont, and I decided I should shake up my outlook by looking at something I didn't necessarily sympathize with. So I pulled a book of Picasso off the shelf.

It was very refreshing, studying the visual idiom and technique of somebody alien to my interests and goals. It made me think over what I'm up to from a different and critical angle. And what do you know - the book reminded me that a painting I've been working on was originally derived from a Picasso composition. It's from 1901, so he was still comparatively technically conservative. Here's the best picture of the painting I could find on the Web:

This was the first hard front-lighting painting I was familiar with, long before I discovered Manet (who, pursuant to yesterday, turned to the Spaniards and their black when he longed for depth). This painting has stuck in my mind for years: the eyes slightly bugged out, the face emerging from the night, livid and intense. I waited a long time until I felt technically accomplished enough to rip it off. Here's the face of the painting I'm working on where I finally stole it:

But Daniel, you say, I can see what you mean, but this does not look like that painting at all!

Leaving apart all questions of whether it's as good as the Picasso (it isn't), if any of you are practicing painters, it's a good case in point about idea theft (or, to put it more delicately, "homage").

The point is this - all painters by nature become captivated by certain paintings that they see. It is worthwhile to carry those paintings around with you, for years if necessary, until your mind has digested them and made them yours. Then go ahead and steal like crazy. The transmogrification of the source image in your mind has already made it your piece, not the piece you saw. You've probably grown beyond yourself in grappling with the piece that so captivated you. This is what you're trying to do, and meditating on a great work for a long time is a great method to do it. All the greats have done it, and most of the not-so-greats.

And with that, adieu for today!

Tomorrow: the technical basis for the similarities in color and contrast between my painting and the Picasso source painting.

No comments:

Post a Comment