Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pochades: an attempt at self-criticism

A selection of pochades

I'm going through the pochades of the last three years, dating and titling the backs, varnishing them, deciding if any should be discarded (always a delightful feeling to paint over the dodgy ones, as if someone has taken an invisible rucksack from my back) seeing if I can draw any general conclusions from seeing them en masse.

My conclusions are:

1. The best pictures are not fuzzy. There is a clear focus. When first I began painting the pochades about three years ago I was somewhat under the influence of early photography. I liked the blurriness of those early Victorian images, and even more that of symbolist photographers sush as in the Camera Work group. On reflection, this influence was baleful: the dreamlike effects are a way, I think of artists escaping responsibility, of saying in effect: "it is not up to us to direct you, all we do is provide a certain stimulus".

2. There is a certain minimum amout of work that the pochades have to contain. That is, there must evidently be a transformative process on display, so that the viewer cannot dismiss the piece as mere.

3. The better pictures use clear, clean colours. Initially, I used often somewhat muted colours. I feel this was a mistake, and the result of cowardice: fear of colour

4. The best pictures are very rooted in direct experience, especially a sense of excitement with places or people. This has to be balanced with knowledge. If a place is totally new then it is often overwhelming, but this is better than if it is too familiar, because then it doesn't inspire at all. It is surprising how many of the best pictures come from being in a place for the very first time and I kick myself for not having pursued the delights of travel painting more vigorously before.

5. There is good attention payed to surfaces and textures.

6. There seems to be a maximum size in which I can give the picture sufficient attention within the hour and a half that one session lasts. So pictures larger than about 10cm sq in surface area are generally too large for the results to be satisfactory.

7. There is little gimmicky work. This is good.



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