Friday, October 07, 2011

A Pope's Guide To Streaks And Crisp Edges

See! See! This is exactly the problem I was having today. Look at the over-crisp edge where the red touches the green, and look how blotchy and streaky the green looks, and similar on the red (you might need to zoom in to see it). This is a consequence of a very smooth surface, paint that has dried early (the red was dry before the green was painted) but even with those two certainties, the pain of the situation can be attenuated by having an accurate underpainting that is very smooth, most easily done using opacity, or a few layers.

Well, that picture, if you haven't spotted it, is by Raphael, and today I was painting my "Prometheus as a Turkey" and having the same problems. My "rocks" are as streaky as Pope Julius and sliding my transparent darks over the poorly executed underpainting was a lesson in introretrospective chastisement. I should have painted the underpainting more slowly and with more care an accuracy. Painting on a flat smooth surface is difficult because the exact depth of paint is needed. Too little and blending becomes impossible and the result is uneven. Too much though and ridges start to form. The slightest deviation is visible. I have a few on this painting. Here is a clip of the rocks so far, by the way...

Unfortunately the photo is too blurry to show the level of detail! Anyway, I've persisted. Another layer, I tell myself, and the painting will look just fine, but I'm frustrated that in my head I can do better, and I'm sure that if I repainted it, a week's work, I could achieve a more Leonardic smoothness. He though took years to paint anything for this reason. Raphael painted lots and quickly, and so had to compromise, and more like him I'll probably call this "good enough" and worry about perfection in future paintings.

After all, my best paintings are in my future, not my past.


Dan Kent said...

All of this is what makes painting fun I think! :)

Mark Sheeky said...

I think you're right :)