Greetings Earthling

Painting is a lot harder physically on me than I remember. I guess that’s me getting older. I also mean a specific type of painting. They way I paint acrylic or oil on big canvases. First of all I always work standing up. I have my computer at standing height, my drawing table at standing height, and my easel at standing height, So I’m used to standing all day. That is not a problem. I prefer it to sitting all day.

When I make my Big Ink Drawings I do them on the same easel at nearly the same size as my paintings. The drawings are on 22×30 inch pieces of paper and my current painting is on a 24×36 inch stretched canvas. So it’s not the size. I think the difference is in the motions I make.

When I’m drawing a big ink drawing I’m moving all over the place. Sometimes I’m using a brush, sometimes a pen, and sometimes a marker. Plus I have at least two brushes that I switch between and four pens. With all those different tools come changes in posture and the movements of my arm. Using a marker with a straight edge is a completely different motion than using a brush and ink freehand.

When I’m painting my large paintings I’m using two brushes for a lot of it. A half inch wide flat bristle brush and a pointed #3 watercolor brush. Those two brushes make up about 90% of the brush strokes on the painting and I’m using a similar motion with both of them. That seems to be the fatiguing part.

I stand in front of the canvas with my hand about a foot away from my body and make small brush strokes. Each stroke is a fraction of an inch up to about an inch long. I actually change the angle of my arm at the shoulder every so often as I move the paint in different directions.

Most of my paintings have a holding line in them much like a cartoon. So I start them the same. I transfer whatever drawing that I have prepared onto the canvas (I grid it up) and then paint the line of the drawing with a brush in either purple or black paint. This part is similar to one of my Big Ink Drawings. With this painting (“Greetings Earthling”) I even used acrylic ink instead of paint. That was first time I did that. I figured I usually use watered down acrylic paint so I may as well use one of these acrylic inks that I bought recently. It worked well.

The lines that make up the initial painted line drawing actually aren’t very important. There is a long way to go on the painting and I have to put a lot of paint on the canvas around the lines. I even go back into the painting near the end and strengthen the lines and add even more lines to the drawing. So I try not to get too caught up in if the initial line drawing looks good or bad. It just has to be functional in the beginning.

With this type of painting I lay down a lot of areas of flat color. The paint itself isn’t really flat as I like to use the brush strokes to create texture. I originally started this type of painting way back in 1986 when I was a painting student. One of my teachers, Nick Marsicano, told me that I should look at Mondrian paintings and see how he laid down areas of paint and line. He also told me specifically to look at how Mondrian would often push the paint up to the line to create an edge. This is what I do too.

When I lay down my large areas of color and make them meet the line I use the half inch flat bristle brush to put paint right next to the line but not up against it. I put a bead of paint about a quarter of an inch away from the edge of the line. Then I move the brush in my hand so it’s facing the line and push the paint up to the line and then draw the brush away from the line. So it’s push and then pull. This creates the edge I’m looking for and makes the line look as if it were cut out of the paint.

For smaller areas of paint I do nearly the same thing but with the smaller painted watercolor brush. It doesn’t leave behind the same nice texture as the bristle brush since its hairs are softer but for small areas that the bigger brush can’t tackle without messing things up the pointed brush is essential. Instead of pushing the bead of paint up to the line with the front of the brush I use the side. So I draw the brush down and push the paint up to the edge. Then I pull outward with the pointed brush or grab the flat one if there is room. Sometimes with the flat brush there is room enough to pull but not push the paint.

It was a Thursday that was a long day. I started at about 7:30 in the morning and didn’t finish painting until five at night. In my younger days this was normal for me. I would do it for days if not weeks on end. I paced myself though. I stopped for lunch and sit down breaks every now and then. As I approach 55 I found myself having to take even more frequent breaks.

As well as the physical aspect of painting it takes a sort of meditative attitude to do this kind of painting. Putting down the same color paint with specific brush strokes going in specific directions takes a lot of concentration and is dull both at the same time. At times I have to let my mind wander and at other times I have to focus on just the stroke as I clear my mind of all other thoughts.

With this painting I found both the mental and physical aspect of it tiring. I had to take more frequent brakes than I usually do because I could feel myself tiring out. I’d work for fifteen to twenty minutes and then take a break for ten. I used to go for an hour or two without a break. Life changes.

Though I haven’t finished with this painting yet I’m happy with it. I’ve got the bulk of the work done. All the flat color is in and now I have to rework the line and add even more lines, brush strokes, and color to the painting. This is the most fun part and though it takes a lot of concentration the physical aspect of it is easier. I’m looking forward to easier.