Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Process of Painting
by Michael Cross

This attempts to put into words the ideas behind my art making process. By writing this, I do not intend to say this is how all artists should or do work. It is an approach that I personally have arrived at over many years, and can be seen as a snapshot of how I work at this particular time. That will change. Change is a necessary part of the process.

As background, when I began to learn to draw and paint as a child, my goal was to reproduce the things around me. Being outdoors in my rural environment was important to me, so the landscape in particular was what I wanted to paint. Barns, fields, fences, rock formations all appeared on my canvas boards and in charcoal drawings. Learning the skills of rendering these as accurately as possible fascinated me.

By the time I was in my teens, my feelings began to connect with the paintings, and I found that particular kinds of features in a landscape could represent my specific feelings and emotions: dark clouds could seem ominous, bright sunlit wheat fields were cheerful, windswept trees and foliage could have a wildness about them. I began to let my work be influenced by emotions, while still using realistic depictions. Some of the paintings now included human faces and figures that could indicate emotions more directly than landscape could. The process of visually inspired depiction began transforming into a process of emotionally inspired depiction.

Through, and for a few years after, college my paintings continued to move between landscape and figure, but gradually with less emphasis on realistic rendering of forms. By the time I began painting full time several years later, I was almost completely working with expressionist landscape painting, mostly influenced by the New Mexico desert where I attended college, and the Kansas prairie where I had grown up.

A big change in my work came when the look and feel of the paint medium I used became more important to me than the objective forms and figures in the paintings. Forms themselves were interesting apart from what they represented, and my goal moved from describing something on canvas to letting natural effects take place more freely on the surface. I did not want my paintings to depict things as much as I wanted them to themselves become things in the physical world. I was losing interest in making paintings look like something other than paintings.
(end of Part One..... to be continued in next posting, along with photos to illustrate some of these points.)

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