Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Page from Monet's Playbook

In the middle of his career, Claude Monet, embarked on the discipline of serial painting in which he painted the same general subject over and over for weeks on end. He was obsessed with color and the effect that changing light throughout the day had on a single scene. In his first series, he chronicled the gradual transition of shadow to light and back to shadow as the sun rose and set over a field of haystacks. It marked a transition in his painting career as well. Before these paintings, he was living the life of a starving artist; afterwards, he began to make a good living.

I'm intrigued by his reason for painting the same subject repeatedly. His goal was to visually catalog every possible light combination through changing seasons and through the course of a day. It's brilliant, really. By painting something familiar again and again, he removed a couple of big elements from the equation. The shapes and overall composition would become almost second nature after a day or two, so that he could focus on value and color and mood.

I've begun painting the same scene again and again. I'm fairly comfortable with the subject, so it's been useful for waking up the brushes and my eyes. The message of the little piece is "Relax," which is a concept I struggle with. I don't know how long I'll continue this daily routine, but for now, it's serving a purpose. I'm hoping that I can find a looser style and gain some confidence in using fewer brush strokes and more interesting colors to communicate shape and shadows. I tend to overwork my pieces, and I think a lesson from Monet's Playbook might help me to relax and focus.

I am making these in a standard ACEO size, 2.5"x3.5". I might end up offering these for sale in the shop that I hope to open soon.

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