Meeting Notes, January 21, 2016

At today’s meeting Loretta U, Kristina, Charlie, Suzanne, Tim, Dave, Linda, Loretta L, Bill, Ward, Jeanie, Jean, Stephanie, Marty, Diane, Susan, Vicki, Tom, Jerry, Mike, Annie, Tedd, Thomas, Eunice, Jennifer, Eric, and me Celeste.

Today’s suggested table topic: Have you ever painted “intuitively” without thinking about the focal point in advance? If you did-- did a focal point appear “anyway”?
What has been your experience?

Celeste: I think I always think about a focal point before I get started! I try to paint somewhat intuitively, but I still have to think about what is the most important thing first. I brought in some paintings from my archives that have some patterned “influence” but still… I know I was thinking a focal point “first”. When we went to the Seattle Art Museum we all discussed an artist, Vuillard, whose paintings are largely “patterned”.

Susan: I don’t think of focal point consciously ---wha? You know what, I don’t really understand this question. I brought the painting that I did from my recent demonstration at OSA. I taught my first class at OSA recently. It was so much fun! You know you can’t be unhappy when you’re holding a bright orange pastel in your hand. (Laughter)!

Diane: I have had an experience while I was painting plein air. I didn't know where to begin looking at all. I was looking at a bunch of green. There was no focal point but I wanted to paint it! I have a lot of trouble seeing a focal point. I am working on all this. It seems a challenge for me when I am outdoors.

Marty: When I first started painting I was really happy. But I got very confused. I just remember I was happier before I started “learning” so many things! (Laughter)! I took off a little bit of time from painting, but as I started up again I've decided to paint expressively.  I brought in two of my more recent paintings. I didn't understand this question! (Laughter)!

Stephanie: I paint from life and I paint from photographs. Sometimes it is true something just “emerges” from what you've painted (as a pattern). I don't think I'll ever be an abstract painter in the truest sense because I always “see” things in what I paint even if I try to paint abstractly! I will make something into a landscape.
I brought in a painting that I painted “intuitively” and another of the waitress at Medley Tea.

Jeanne: This question seems to be the opposite of my effort. I usually react to something and I hold onto that as my “hook” for a painting. I have been continuing in my class with Mark Andreas. I have been continuing to simplify tone and work with big shapes. I recommend walnut alkyd (for drying). I have two set ups now one for painting in this class and the other for painting other times.  I am showing a painting from class.

Jeanie: PASS! I have nothing to offer for this topic (laughter)!

Ward: I come from a photography background. One time I was photographing a crow. This crow actually posed for the camera. Each time I took a picture of it ---it was looking Square at me. What I did was I made a composite of that one crow and this is the painting I am showing you. In effect this crow makes you the focal point because he keeps looking at you. (Laughter)! I will never sell this painting because it means a lot to me. I called it “The Murder Scene”.

Bill: I relate to what Marty said about the joy of painting. It really has to be there! I brought in a painting that I did paint intuitively. I just painted this like a child would like with finger paints. I really loved doing it. I also brought in a painting  that I have done of my daughters father-in-law.

Loretta L:  I am a new painter. I haven’t been thinking about the focal point. It just does seem to develop somehow. For me, I don’t know in the beginning what’s going to stand out. I brought in a class assignment also from Mark Andreas’ class.

Linda: I have been taking an online class with Jeffrey Watts. It’s the Jeffrey Watts Atelier. I did these two portraits that are done in gouache.

Dave: I don’t know exactly what to say about this topic. I am showing a plein air painting. I do like working in sort of a random way. I am also showing another painting that I did from my trip to Europe. I called this one “Out of the Shadows”.

Tim: I do a lot of things with no focal point. (Laughter)!. Really all I do sometimes is just start something as a doodle. I often do things just out of my head. I will just slap some paint on a surface to see what will happen. I brought in two watercolors that I did recently on this paper that is called mineral paper. I also brought in this painting of an animal skull.

Suzanne: Impromptu painting is what I do! I like painting on-site. However, before I found this group I painted on my own and I got scared one time because of feeling threatened by strangers. I will go out painting with you this summer. I paint a lot of these types of sketches out of my head. From memory. (Suzanne showed her sketchbook).

Charlie: I like photography. I don't know exactly how I feel about focal point because for example, I took a picture of a bunch of seals on a rock one time and you could barely discern that the seals and the rock were different from one another. Just the same --I thought it was a successful photo. Maybe I liked that there was no strong focal point!

Kristina: I am heading toward painting more intuitively with my palette knife. I really enjoyed the trip that we made to the Seattle Art Museum. I remember that Vuillard had a lot of pattern type of paintings. And in particular Jerry Dickason went on for at least 20 minutes about how much he hated “Two women drinking coffee”. (A painting by Vuillard) (Laughter)!

Loretta U: I am someone who paints intuitively. I just start and see where it all goes. I don’t really plan. I find that it is far more interesting to wonder where it will all go.

Jennifer: I am someone who will choose a primary and secondary focal point before I begin! I think that painting is speaking without words and I seriously like to be clear. I enjoy figuring it out!  I am showing a recent painting of a marina.

Eunice: I always have something in mind when I start. I don't think I've ever just started with nothing in mind. I did buy a set of reference photographs one time from someone to paint from. That was very enjoyable because the focal points were all figured out for me! (Laughter)!

Tedd: I am trained as an architect! So yes I always have a focal point. I am showing a painting that I did of a profile.

Annie: I work in a sketchbook. Many of my sketches have a pattern quality to them. I think that I do lean toward pattern! I like wondering where it will go next….but also I do try to find a composition. I brought in a painting that I call “How we watch Television”.

Mike: (T. Michael): I do try to find a composition. I am showing a painting that I’ve been doing while following along with an instructional DVD. There is an emerging that goes on with painting…but in watercolor you do have to plan.

Jerry: Well it is interesting… once you decide you are painting intuitively you're no longer painting intuitively. Because you have “discovered” that you have are painting intuitively that itself knocks you out of that zone. It is a very Zen thing to paint intuitively. There is something about painting intuitively that has to do with destruction and rebuilding. Let me explain further,  if you are laughing and then you notice you are laughing you are not really any longer laughing. You know like when someone is at a party and they say “Are we having fun yet”? That statement destroys the moment and you will no longer be laughing. I brought in this painting that I did when I first started painting. I went over to Utrecht and bought a bunch of paints before my first painting class. I painted this before anyone taught me anything. I painted it right after a salmon trip. And you can see that there’s sort of a shape here that indicates fish. I named this painting “Caught” not only because of that but because I was also caught by painting.

Tom: I don't know how to respond to this question. I do have to have a subject. But in my process I've learned not to emphasize things too much. I actually deemphasize. I like that subtle look. We all have our own psychology. We all bring what we bring to the viewing of the painting. I brought in a painting that I did in the snow and I’m calling it “The Snow Job”.

Vicki: I have read and know it's true that when ever a person or an animal is placed in a painting that is going to be a focal point. I do like to divide my canvas into thirds before I start. I do that every time. That I assume is a way to try to find a focal point. I brought in a painting that really has no focal point! (Laughter)!

Eric: I don't get to come to these meetings very often. I'm happy to be here. When you're painting from life it is important to notice how as you are looking at something other things around it “diminish”. I try to do that in my painting --I will try to make something stand out by making the other things fall more away. When I first started painting everything was all in focus. Don’t fall into the trap of doing that. Look at something and then notice how other things that you’re not exactly looking at are falling away out of sight.

Thomas: How many of you tried to paint “across” the canvas like I recommended last time? (Several hands go up.) There is a science to this business about focal point. It turns out because of evolution we actually see the difference of things first. We have to discriminate. It has to do with survival. This is how we were hardwired. So we need to know which is the red fruit and what are the dangers etc.. It’s the differences …the contrast, the thicks and thins (and even combining several “differences”) that make things stand out. I really actually am more of a happenstance type painter. I have a painting friend who asked me “have you mapped out your painting”? (We’re all different in how we think about this).  If you think about the director shooting a film. It is a lot like that. A director will lead you through a movie. If he doesn’t …you will be lost. I have a game for us. I brought my painting can you tell me when I point to any part of it which part do you think is the focal point? (Answers are in several different places).
You see that we see things all differently. This cannot really be nailed down so completely.

Linda adds: James Gurney had a article on his blog about how your emotions have everything to do with how and what you see.


Susan Kuznitsky has a new class starting May March 9 at OSA it will be limited to eight people. Contact her to learn more:

Marty's daughter is getting married he wants donations (laughter)! (Congratulations, Marty and family)!

Vicki has a solo show at Bread and Ink this month. (Incidentally, Thomas Kitts corrected her when she called it a one woman show. We don’t say that anymore ---we call it simply a solo show. Thanks Thomas) and Congratulations, Vicki!

There will be a fundraiser for Ward on February 19 at the Trails End saloon. Ward will be playing! Let’s all turn out to support Ward. (He recently survived a catostrophic medical event---we’re so grateful and happy he is with us)!

Jennifer Diehl workshops:  The design class at the brush and pallet beginning February 12-14 and February 26-28. She will be teaching a crash course much like a college course. It is intensified information that is presented in two weekends. To officially reserve your spot please email Jennifer and send payment. She has another workshop in North Carolina  September 23 and 26th

Kristina has big paintings at A-Cena in Sellwood this month:

Eric Bowman would love referrals to a farm or ranch. He is beginning a new series of paintings that have a western theme.

Thomas’ new website asking art is live! (Congratulations, Thomas)
 He will have more classes in the future...information to come.

We checked out Brenda’s show at the Attic yesterday. Photos here:

This was just a great meeting today afterwards some people went to Medley tea for sketching ---you can find the photos here:

Next meeting January 28. Suggested table topic: “Revisiting paintings”. Have you gone into an old painting to improve it? Tell us about all of your experiences pertaining to going back into a painting “later”.

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