Practical Project Problems - Painting on Wood and Changing Everything
The whole point of the Local Fool Tries series is, as some may have guessed, a local fool (me) attempting new things in art.
When I first thought of the challenge it seemed a great way to rapid fire try new skill sets and expand my horizons. And for the most part that has indeed been the case; my prior two LFT videos (gouache and art journalling respectively) both took very little time overall despite the new mediums and I greatly enjoyed doing them.
However, when it came to painting this thin strip of wood, several things came to light.
Despite the point of this challenge being to try new things, I had stuck to the same paper sizes and shapes. Filling rectangular A4 or A5 sections of paper with paint and using my standard filming setups in order to capture the process of creating the pieces. While true I was using new materials, it quickly became clear that this particular challenge could not operate under the same status quo. I had never tried to paint anything the average width of a bookmark and four times as long.
It feels like it should be obvious. Of course artists need to try different shapes and canvas lengths! But I confess this had me flummoxed. I eventually landed on a thin vertical ‘scene’ of falling skeletons – hey I can stick to my usual theme and genre, the challenge says nothing about changing that – but then I was stuck on how to proceed.
Wood requires a bit of preparation before painting, unlike most papers. Since this piece of wood lived out it’s life supporting my mattress I had to sand it all down and coat the surface with gesso to prevent paint and ink bleeding away into the grain of the wood. As if that wasn’t enough, I would have to conceive of a way to display the artwork since a frame was a no-no, and work a way around the woods curvature. Maybe it started out it’s life flat but almost a decade supporting my sleeping form has clearly taken its toll.
In the end I decided on a simple approach – a hole drilled through the top to hang the piece from a ribbon or nail, which works well enough despite the fact I probably should have made the hole before I began painting. I just went with how curvy the wood was since I had no idea how to undo that, and as such it curves away from the wall when it hangs. Which is annoying, but all something to keep in mind for the next wood slat I attempt to upcycle.
Then I attempted to film it and realized… this wasn’t going to work.
The wood was more than half the full width of my desk and no matter where I put the camera mount I couldn’t get the whole thing in a clear shot – bits of desk ware would be in the way, the framing was awful, the light was uneven etc etc… So I had to come up with new ways of filming myself paint, which involved a lot of closeups and angles I hadn’t tried before. I was absolutely stuck with the white light from my skylight so I had to make a conscious effort to lean back and not let my shadow get in the way of the shot.
Honestly? It was great! The multitude of angles, closeups and moving shots I had to get to show people what I was painting accurately meant that my video editing looks WAY more professional than my previous videos. I’m much more comfortable now thinking about backgrounds and angles than I was last month, and am more than willing to try more varied shapes and sizes in my work.
I’m even more confident in what defines my style – since I was doing my regular subject matter in a restricted space I managed to allude to a subliminal story going on here. Why are the skeletons trying to climb up? The octopus appears to be trying to grab them and the fabric they’re climbing isn’t stable. What awaits at the top? I have no idea but the guy who’s highest looks happier than those falling away. The swirls were supposed to be an art nouveau flourish but the skeleton that is falling clearly tried to grab them and they broke away in his hand!
This mixture of practical and fantastical, slightly whimsical storytelling is what I want to do more of. And now that this behemoth of a project is out of the way I can focus on doing just that.
Let me know if you agree with me and what projects you’ve taken on that have altered the way you look at your work. See you in the next video!