Thoughts on Painting and Web Surfing

  • On August 1, 2010 ·
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On Painting

I bought some paints recently and a number of different surfaces to work on. I haven’t done much actual painting since college. I had a bad experience with a prof that caused me to turn away from the medium for awhile. I got the urge to do some digital painting and, after completing one in Photoshop, (CS3, mind you, so the blending capacities were limited) I thought I’d try some physical painting again. I still had some brushes and a couple of colors, a 2 pack of canvases I never got around to using. I grabbed a 3 pack of canvas panels, some more oils, couple more brushes, and an artist’s panel.

Oils are my preferred paint. Whenever it comes to mixing paints with water things always get runny for me and I found acrylic like painting with plastic. Really painting is like working in any other media. You try to create an image, you work to refine it, and you try to make the things you used to make the image disappear into the final picture. We’ve all seen the artist who has one trick up their sleeve they pull out in every piece. I’d see it in music classes, too. When somebody’s given room to improvise a solo and they keep going back to this one thing over and over. Guitar players who think finger-tapping makes them awesome, trombone players who think a gliss is always the answer, trumpet players who always end things with a shake. I recognize these things when I see people doing them a lot and I see it in myself when I’m making art in one form or another.

Practice and repetition will only get a person so far. The hard part is always stepping outside of the work you’ve created and objectively seeing what you need to change. I remember in reading The Inner Game of Tennis that the author would place a mirror in front of his students and have them swing. Once they were able to actually see themselves doing the motion they could compare it with what they thought it should look like and correct themselves much faster than if he told them what to do. Sometimes artists get so hung up on the process of making the work that they can’t look at it and realize the changes they need to make to improve. They can get so into rendering the highlight on this character’s face that they don’t see it doesn’t match the rest of the piece. They can get so wrapped up in the mixing of colors that they aren’t thinking about what works best for the finished image. Other times they pull out their bag of tricks and get offended when somebody tells them the picture’s not done.

I’m not sure just what I’ll paint yet but I have a few ideas. My own interests lately have circled around pulp novel covers, scifi/horror/film noir movie posters, and other stylized artwork of the early twentieth century. (Art Deco, Art Nouveau, early comic strip and animated cartoons…) In the future I’ll do some biographies on my favorite artists and how I found their work influential. I recently picked up a copy of Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn’t Exist, which is a very interesting and helpful book on studio practices for studying and rendering images from the mind. I’m also diving into researching references. Sometimes you’ll find an image or a concept that will just set off your imagination. The key is to cast out a wide enough net that you’re able to pull enough things in.

On Web Surfing

Looking up references brings me to the next topic I wanted to blog about. Maintaining reference files over the years has driven me a little insane. These days I bookmark things rather than saving them because, honestly, I don’t have the HD space and there’s usually several different versions online now anyway. I’ve been using Xmarks to sync bookmarks across browsers and computers, even putting them online should I ever need to get at them from another computer. Very awesome system and I recommend it. But I’ve still been frustrated with sorting and managing those bookmarks. Sometimes I’ll have several different pages open in my web browser full of tabs. It becomes a real balancing act trying to keep track of them all. Certainly somebody’s developed a better system for this, right? It’s 2010, I can see somebody doing it. Well, somebody did do it and it’s in development. Check out TabCandy for Firefox.

It’s in alpha right now (which I found kind of confusing to set up) though there’s an outdated addon available until it hopefully gets put into Firefox 4. I’ve been primarily a Safari user since FF has traditionally been a bit of a CPU hog. However something like this could get me to switch. I also hope it’s something that gets picked up by other browsers. It’s really the next step in tabbed browsing. Being able to sort groups of tabs at a time, visually, just makes sense and it’s about time somebody put it together.

An Introduction to Firefox’s Tab Candy from Aza Raskin on Vimeo.