Monday, March 26, 2018

Technique--Art on the Edge, Part Two

In this post, as promised, I would like to talk a little bit about how I get line quality in my work. As I may have touched on in my previous post, I am completely and utterly infatuated with what line can do. This is totally a personal preference. I know one artist for instance, who absolutely abhors lines and doesn't think his work is done unless each and every delineation is gone. He likes a much softer, tone next to tone approach. 

I think I'll start with one of my more recent paintings, from 2017. This piece is called "Sarah and Isaac", and is part of a series where I am depicting in new ways the lives of women in the Bible. I actually intended a more realistic look, but sometimes paintings have a life of their own, and this one was certainly opinionated.  :)  There is a feeling of a religious icon here, and it was sorely tempting to thickly outline everything--like in a stained glass window-- but then I knew it would be too much. I wanted to aim for a semi-modern art graphic effect, and still retain somewhat of a 'classical' feel at the same time. It was a tough balancing act.

The outline around Sarah's head was what I like to call a 'happy accident', a term I've co-opted from my favorite art professor in days of old. It was made by having a much lighter background color surrounding her head first, and then, over time as the piece progressed, laying in new colors, and leaving just that hint of the old color. I believe that many subtle effects are made this way, by blocking color around an object, and then layering a new color--but leaving an outline of the previous. I hope this makes sense...if not, I will go into this further in the future, maybe show you a step by step demonstration. Thicker, more visible lines were used to accentuate parts of her outer form, with a line on only sections of Isaac's arm and overalls. The figures in the field, representing the family lineage (no pun intended) of souls that are not born yet, were outlined a bit more heavily, to give them 'punch' from their vividly colored background. It made me SO nervous to add that little bit of black contour to the bottom of the clouds, but I feel it helped them to come forward a bit. I think the most important lesson here: line does not have to be everywhere, and sometimes less is more.

'Sarah and Isaac', Cory Jaeger-Kenat, 2017
This next work is part of my 'Hats' series, a collection of practice studies examining the texture of fabrics. I wanted to play with the concept of netting on an old-fashioned hat. Here again, in order to get the variety of lines (and shapes) I wanted, I painted the folds a darker color and revisited them again with dots of whites. Again, I have to emphasize, I did not make these lines by using a thin brush. I created shapes of darker color, then went in with lighter. One can make incredibly thin, lyrical lines this way. I have to admit that I particularly like the thick line originating at the top, contrasting with the clean sweep of a single line at the bottom left, where the netting falls over the hat.

'Roberta', Cory Jaeger-Kenat, 2017

'Turtleneck Boys', Cory Jaeger-Kenat, 2017

In 'Turtleneck Boys', the painting above, lines are thick and choppy, to convey a sense of discord, disturbance, even menace.
Celtic Goddess, Cory Jaeger-Kenat, 2003

This is a pencil drawing done way back when. This time I used a very, very sharp pencil for my contours, barely touching the surface in some parts. It gives a rather ghostly effect.

Lines have an emotional effect on us. When you think about it, the whole process of reading a book is interpreting tiny lines in print. And in a painting, lines establish style and accent.  When you draw a line, ask yourself, what is the mood I am trying to convey? There's so much that just that simple line can say--about you and the work.

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