Tuesday
Oct042011

Painting with a Mouse

No, this does not involve Mickey or Minnie. Nor have I discovered a mouse nibbling my watercolor paper in my studio. Rather, it is a computer mouse.

I am an artist who likes to start a painting with color and texture in mind, rather than a specific subject, and then take advantage of interesting, even exciting things that happen on the paper that I could not possibly have planned. Sometimes I love the first step, but am undecided about how to develop it into a viable painting.

I’ve found an enjoyable, risk-free way to find my way out of that corner I’ve painted myself into.  I power up my computer. While it is groaning and buzzing (the  equivalent of early morning yawns and stretches) I take a digital photograph of the first step of my painting. And after transferring the photograph to the computer, I can paint and draw on it endlessly with the mouse.

Should the background be olive green or red orange? Would it be better to make it transparent or opaque? And solid, even  color or textured? Maybe spray paint.

Hmmm. I love the color and texture on the left side. I’m going to “clone” that in the upper right hand corner. No no no! That is not good, so I “undo” to back up as needed.

If I am really stumped about what direction to take a painting, I send my photograph of the first step to 3 artist friends. If they aren’t too busy they will usually email advice within hours, sometimes making their own suggestions in the form of a computer sketch on my photo to email back to me.  

Once I have a version I like, I save it in an onscreen file. But if I have other ideas to try, I start over. This process is really enjoyable, and I sometimes generate 4-5 versions of the same painting before choosing one. I suppose it is that creative right brain business, but by this time I can hardly wait to work on the actual painting!

Finally I choose my favorite version and print out a 4x6 inch photo reference to use as a guide. Plans are only that, and I often make changes as I continue to develop my image.  And if I am uncertain at any point, I can always take another photo and harness that mouse to help me.

One of the things I’m currently working on is a series of at least 4 paintings, each of which will have brighter than usual colors, dominance of a spotted texture, and stripes. I intend for this small series to be abstracted florals. But if I find that one or more of the starts could better be developed into a landscape, or a group of people at a party, I won’t hesitate to go that direction and simply not include it as part of this series.

In this blog I’m sharing an altered photograph of my first painting step for a new piece of work.  And now that I have my computer-altered sketch for how to proceed, my motor is revving.  I’m itching to apply paint to what will likely be the second painting in my series of four. The first, an orange floral, will appear in the work shown on this website as soon as I think of a title. I sometimes send a photo of a finished painting to friends, asking for suggestions for a title. Any takers to help me title the first in this series? I’m too busy painting the second.

Oh….please don’t send any mouse traps. It’s fall, and I’ve already set my supply of traps in case any real, unwelcome mice are looking for warm winter lodging.