I've been focusing a lot recently on the physical application of paint. Avoiding thinking about what colors I'm using or the specific medium. I use a pretty standard academic palette, but I don't pay attention to anything other than the value of my palette. Light to dark arrangement is my main focus. But anyway, I've been thinking of the way that I apply paint because I think that is one main area of importance. So to think of paint as rubbed in pastel instead of a loose watercolor wash has helped me to create the layered illusion of skin that I have been striving for. Having a good oil ground really facilitates this rubbing (frottis) techniques immensely. I left some touch of the mark in the lower right of this head study that I've worked on. This technique also takes a varnish very well to create a nice academic surface. This rubbed ebauche' underpainting is a very forgiving beginning to any type of painting. It works well to leave the dither of the brush in the landscape or in some areas of the figure. It's good to study palettes and mediums (I have studied and tried many variations) but a really good surface and the physical application of paint are crucial.
I'll be the first one to admit, I always struggle getting past the beginning of a painting. If it isn't going well immediately, I feel great pains. But the truth that I have been blind to for too long is that all beginnings are difficult. Every element of a painting needs to be rendered from general to specific as the eye sees more structure within the form. I see now that often times paintings are three or four sittings away from looking more pleasing. It's deceptive to see a finished painting because we don't see the struggle; all we see in museums are the cream of the crop. So I will continue to take my time and paint, but I enjoy showing my process. And I know that it isn't the easiest road to attain a high level of finish, but that is the only thing that satisfies me.
I have recently been producing as many paintings as I can. I don't always feel inspired, but there are some nights where I feel like I am progressing more. It makes me realize that the bulk of production is necessary, but not of any aesthetic worth. I think it is all a series of errors until I can begin to figure out how to limit the number of those errors through a second nature feeling with the brush. All these missteps culminate in a pile that I cherish in my studio space. It has taught me to build well made canvases and to not worry too much about pressuring myself to create beautiful paintings. I do have a high level of self criticism, but it pushes me instead of limiting me. I am going to keep practicing my eye and my hand on my own course. So this pile of portraits and studies is a trophy in my eyes, because they are all steps along the way as I try to hone my craft. Trial, error and lots of reading.