Jumping over shadows

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Abstract (55 cms x 48 cms acrylics 2017)

Without wanting to revive the debate about whether one needs to be taught or not, taking part in a workshop that inspires certainly works for me.

Last week I was fortunate enough to attend Katie Sollohub‘s still life course at the Seawhite Studios in the south of England. If you look at Katie’s website – or indeed Emily Ball’s, who runs Seawhite – you’ll notice that slavish realism is not their thing – the course was certain to be interesting.

In fact it was an intriguing mixture of formal exercises with the encouragement to go where those exercises led you. For example, we began by mixing a dark colour followed by a light, and juxtaposing them while experimenting with different edges to each block, which led to the abstract above.

For a still life course I came away with relatively few paintings of apples, jugs and flowers. Instead, it was suggested that I could use elements of the still life arrangement to create something more abstract. The picture below, therefore, includes a single small vase, while the wavy line and circles are the pattern on a batik cloth, the windmill shapes stylised versions of a fleshy plant, the magenta cross another motif from a piece of fabric.

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Abstract still life 1 (55 cms x 46 cms acrylics 2017)

I found another exercise – concentrating on negative spaces side-by-side with outlines of objects – led to the sort of straightforward composition that I was hoping to avoid. Katie’s answer was to simply paint over it, using the blue underpainting, as it now was, as an element in the new composition (below). Once again, I took parts of the set up to create a somewhat abstracted still life, rather than painting exactly what I saw on the table.

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Abstract still life 2 (50 cms x 40 cms acrylic 2017)

To say all this was exhilarating, refreshing and provocative is an understatement. I had hoped to have limiting beliefs challenged and they were: what I thought of as still life painting was deconstructed and reassembled into something fresh (for me) and alive.

The Germans have a saying about jumping over your own shadow, meaning to try something new, take a risk, dare greatly. That was certainly what I did last week, and I suspect its effect will be long-lasting.

 

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27 thoughts on “Jumping over shadows

  1. Michael, I like all three images a lot because of the composition and colours. It is sort of the way I work, but I can certainly learn something from the tips you got. Good for you for taking the risk, I think these will open a lot of space up for you in your dance between realism and abstraction. I know because I’m jiving right along there in the same gap. cool, Sarah

    Liked by 1 person

  2. For me, the first image has something deeper. I see two eyes of a face in the darker area; perhaps your shadow side looking out to a brighter area that is supporting you, the yellow part. 🖼

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Michael, I love the progression of your work here. As always you inspire me. Love the line “jumping over your shadow”. You have taken risks to enjoyable results. I’ve hardly written lately much less practiced art, but you are an inspiration. Maybe I should try risking my drawings/paintings/zentagles to accompany my poems instead of photographs. hmmm.

    Like

  4. Pingback: Drenched in orange blossom water | A Certain Line

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