12" x 16" acrylic painted papers on wc paper
The title of the piece refers both to the literal progress of a train from one point to another and the actual progress of the state of transportation during the mid to late 1800's. I was very inspired by what I have been learning lately about the development of railroads and rail travel. And I love the time period surrounding the advent of the Industrial Age. I have a real affinity for the 1850's to 1950's or so additionally. Trains, train travel, and film noir were on my mind for this piece.
I have read many times (and been told by professional artists) that limited value black and white studies/pieces are tremendously helpful. I always thought that the studies would help me to tighten up my values (the number that I use) and to not focus on color. While those things are true, I also discovered some other things which might be useful. Here they are:
*Almost right away, the design became critically important. Not having any color meant that everything else came to the forefront: design, shape, line and value contrast. Perceived "mistakes" really seemed to stand out.
* Not focusing on color actually made things both easier and harder (see above). There was no worrying about chroma or color relationships but there was a lot of fretting about shape, size, repetition and direction. Proportion became key.
* It became very obvious that balance was something to work on. I can see an overall balance of value (I think) and so that makes me think that I am probably balancing my actual colors OK (since all color has inherent value). I didn't really want any one value to stand out though so that became challenging.
* Balance or imbalance of weight became very obvious. I tend to lean my shapes to the left or right and I could see that right away. I also try to prop up the bottom and the top rather frequently so that tells me something too. The "weight" of shapes and values became more obvious.
* It was very easy to get fiddly. Using more shapes doesn't help. I had to constantly ask myself whether or not I was adding something to advance the painting or to cover up an error.
* The color black was interesting to work with. And using blacks and grays and white gave the whole piece a certain feeling.
I have to laugh though because Rich came into the studio as I was nearing completion. His comment was that the little pieces stuck on the background looked like "scrap booking meets fine art." There's a comment for you and it made me think a lot. First, I cringed. Scrap booking? Not what I want. The danger with paper and glue is that it could turn into a craft project. Then, I realized this morning that I was showing a terrible bias. I have always seen myself as a "fine art" kind of artist. Well, what does that mean anyway? Here I am cutting and gluing bits of paper! Is scrap booking or card making or making lanyards and macrame any less of an art form than painting? It makes me question both how I perceive myself and how I perceive all other artists. I hope that my approach to others is more generous and all encompassing than that. But, I also want to be taken seriously no matter how I choose to express myself. I don't want to be embarrassed either. It's going to require more thought.
OK, I hope everyone has had a good holiday and a good weekend/week to recover, etc. I am working on some other ideas and am seriously thinking about another limited value piece. We'll see. Thanks for reading and commenting.