Saturday, April 17, 2010
What, How & Why
The Universal Law of Gravity by Katharine A. Cartwright
Series: The Laws of Nature
Watercolor on paper, 26" x 20"
I completed this painting two days ago and have had a lot of questions about this new series from bloggers and non-bloggers alike. So, I thought I'd use this weekend post to provide a greater explanation of what I'm doing.
Those of you who've followed my work know that I'm a "series" painter. I spend copious amounts of time thinking about concepts for series. I rarely write down my ideas and mostly keep them in my head. This past winter, I painted a number of false starts in series that didn't satisfy me. I may return to them in the future for refinement, and those paintings serve as my "notes."
My newest series, The Laws of Nature, was formulated in a painting demonstration I gave to a student last winter. The lesson was about the division of space in non-objective art to create effective designs. I set that demo aside for about a month, and then decided to use it as a foundation to create this new series. There are only two transitional paintings between the original demo and the first formal painting in this series, The Law of Reciprocal Actions. The concept for this new series is to comment on the attempt by humans to harness the raw materials and energy of the universe through our technology within the limitations of the physical laws of nature, which render our "machines" imperfect and our attempts flawed. This is not a statement against technology; rather, it's a comment about our limitations.
Most frequently, I'm asked about how I create these paintings. Unlike my previous work, I use no references outside of my imagination. I begin by stretching a full-sheet of watercolor paper and outlining the intended perimeter of the painting (26" x 20"). Then I ponder the physical "law" that will become the subject. Once I understand that law, I begin drafting forms on my paper after I've selected a focal point (or node) according to the Law of Thirds. Using my imagination, I begin with integrating forms at the focal point and then expand from there. The only thing I think about is how these forms will relate to each other, creating a variety of shapes, and establishing directionality. My approach is improvisational since I don't do any prior sketching. It takes me about two hours to complete a detailed pencil contour drawing.
Next, I select five colors and begin painting. I have no plan, but try to pay attention to establishing color dominance and using color to lead the eye. Precision painting takes a looooong time, so I need a full week to complete one painting. I'm never quite certain how a form will be painted, and usually don't decide until I've completed several adjacent forms. That tells me how to paint the next form. This is a purely intuitive process.
I've completed three paintings in this series and am now drafting the fourth, entitled The Law of Inertia. Believe me, I've had to overcome a lot of inertia to arrive at solutions for this one!!
I'll conclude by saying that this series is the easiest one I've ever painted - it freely flows from my subconscious and is quite natural. This is probably because I'm painting the worlds of my imagination, so it comes naturally and is satisfying. Isn't that what it's all about?