Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"Whatsit" Paintings

Over the years, Mobile Bay has seen its share of hurricanes. It seems that each time I visit Fairhope, one pier or another is in a state of disrepair after a storm. But things are ship-shape this year, and even the Yardarm Restaurant, which straddles the town pier, looks like it'll be open after the holidays.

A few miles south, however, down by Point Clear, many of the piers, docks and boathouses still need attention. I did a 5x7 color study there today. (My back is much better, thanks to rest and advice and prayers from friends.) The largest boathouse, pictured on the left of this 5x7 oil, was knocked off its footings by Hurricane Katrina. Most of the piers around it are missing sections.

What caught my eye, though, was the warm, brown hue of the pier and boathouse reflections. I think I captured this and the other colors accurately. I also got the angle and shape of the tipped boathouse right, too. However, Doug Dawson would call this painting a "whatsit" painting. Without an explanatory placard next to it on the gallery wall, the viewer would ask "What is it?" What is that thing that looks a-kilter?

A "whatsit" painting fails because it forces the viewer away from the painter's intended center of interest or message. If I were to make this a larger, studio painting, I would seriously consider setting the boathouse back solidly on its footings.

I also had an opportunity to do a 5x7 painting of my in-laws' house. It's a Christmas piece, complete with candles in the windows and a wreath on the door.

By the way, while on the road, I'm trying to minimize the hassle of cleaning up. I'm painting with just one brush, and when done, rinsing it well in my Turpenoid cup. (If the solvent "burns" the hairs, I have a replacement.) I'm using a plastic, "seven days" pill box to house my six colors and to keep them reasonably fresh. I dip my brush directly in this pill box.

The only paint that goes on my palette is white plus any mixtures, and I scrape it clean at the end of my painting session. Finally, I'm using the Art Cocoon to hold and store my panels.

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