A painting a day, begin phase 2: #13, Valley of the Gourd

If you’re following all my daily paintings, you might want to catch up before reading about the latest one.

Partway through the first phase of this project — after several installments and when it became quite obvious that I would need more than one sheet to get me through our remaining time in Boston — I told Erik that I was enjoying myself, but wondered if it was too limiting that all my paintings were fairly realistic still lifes.

“I feel I should also be practicing greater freedom of expression,” I said, “or abstraction, or… something crazier than just representing things as they are.” I had tacked my partially-finished sheet up on the wall and we stood looking at it together.

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“You know what you could do for the second sheet?” he said. “You could paint exactly what you’ve painted the first time.”

“But I don’t have the things anymore,” I said. The crabapples were rapidly deteriorating, the carrots and turnips had gone to nourish our bodies, and the leaves lasted only a day.

“Yeah. You’d have to paint from the paintings. But not making copies. You could take one thing you liked about the first version, maybe a color… or you could focus on just one part of, say, this gourd, or you could just paint the way it makes you feel.”

“How meta!” I said. “I like it. I don’t know if I can do it, but it’s a worth a try.”

I don’t consider myself a serious representational artist — I am always taking liberties with proportions, and I rarely use a ruler even when the real-life lines are straight — but I just seem to go that direction these days. Even when I used to draw only from imagination, my work was always more decorative than abstract. So I am not very experienced with drawing or painting in a truly free way. I don’t have a good sense of where to start. But I like the idea of breaking out of close allegiance to reality, and so, this second sheet of paper will be dedicated to reworkings of the paintings on my first sheet. What will that look like? Your guess is as good as mine!

Here’s my first attempt: a 40-minute re-envisioning of The People’s Republic of Gourd. I felt that piece was overworked and the colors muddy, so I tried to simplify it:

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Even though it’s very simple, I still feel the colors didn’t come out clean enough. But I rather like it, all the same. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the first and second gourd (as always, click to enlarge):

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And here’s the second sheet in-progress, with the first sheet propped up for reference, and a peek at tomorrow’s installment:

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18 responses to “A painting a day, begin phase 2: #13, Valley of the Gourd

    • Oh eeee, yay, Alejna, I am so excited you’re excited! I don’t think I’ve ever tried reinterpreting my own work before so I am excited too, and… not apprehensive, since the first stage of this project came out so much better than expected, but there’s definitely a fizzy kind of “starting a new thing” feeling to this. 🙂

  1. I absolutely love the second version. I’m trying to figure out why. The colors for one thing. I want to pick the gourd up and hold it, pluck it right off the page, so it feels more real even though the first version seems more ‘technically’ real. The background enhances the gourd more, too. Remember, I’m not an artist so this opinion is just as a viewer. The second one seems cleaner and brighter, and it’s not just the brighter colors. It seems to have more depth for some reason. Wow, I’d make a terrible art critic. I had an instant positive reaction to this second one. Finally, it also feels like there’s more of ‘you’ in it.

    • Oh, thank you, Lisa! You’re right, there is a very inviting feel to the reworked gourd — it seems to jump off the page. I didn’t really notice that at first (I was too fixated on whether the background colors were muddy), so I thank you for pointing that out; it totally changes the way I look at the painting now! That feeling of depth you point out might have to do with the value contrast between the bright, light gourd and the deep, dark background colors. Even though there’s more detail in the original, there isn’t as much contrast, and contrast is quite important. I was reading in a watercolor book that if you have to only pay attention to one thing as a beginning painter, you should look to your values (meaning darkness/lightness, not beliefs, hehe). I’m not always good at that.

      Honestly, I don’t understand what art critics are talking about a lot of the time, and I don’t even necessarily know what the artists themselves are talking about, either. Sometimes I think art should stand more on its own without everyone needing to discuss what something stands for or blah blah blah. As a writer, you are a skilled and articulate observer, and so your feedback means just as much to me as a “professional” perspective. 🙂

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