As the Arbor Vitae Painting Marathon came to a close, I had made about a dozen or so paintings, both plein air and studio work. For our final project of just one day, we were asked to make a large “synthetic painting,” one based on the information from all the work we produced. To do so, we began arranging our lot of paintings on the wall, juxtaposing or overlapping them based on “pathways” we located across the images. My ensemble of paintings appears below.
“Painting Ensemble,” 2015
Since the edges of this ensemble did not conform to a traditional rectangular or square format, I cropped the grouping to produce such a format (see below). Knowing I had a 4 foot square canvas at my disposal, I chose a square arrangement. As you can see, it didn’t matter if the paintings were upright, sideways, upsidedown. The pathways across the total image were what mattered.
“Cropped Painting Ensemble,” 2015
The next two images are stages 1 & 2 of this synthetic painting. Stage 2 represents the “final” image. Had I more time, I would have taken this painting further, and at some point I may still do so. Evening critique was calling, however, and I dare say that I was able to take this image pretty far in just one day!
“Synthetic Painting, Stage 1,” 2015
“Synthetic Painting, Stage 2,” 2015
The concept of a synthetic painting is an intriguing one, something many artists have certainly explored (e.g. de Kooning’s “Excavation”). For me, however, this was a new experience, and a fruitful one at that. Many possibilities come to mind based on this effort, and I particularly like the idea of one large image representing the cumulative effect of a multitude of experiences.
All in all, the Arbor Vitae Painting Marathon was a very worthwhile course. I feel I learned a great deal about the possibilities of representation, particularly with respect to the use of color and metaphor. I met many great people along the way, and it was wonderful to be fully engaged in a constructive painterly environment. As in the 2012 Drawing Marathon, Dean Graham Nickson and his assistants provided superb instruction and critique, and challenged us in very productive ways. It’s quite invigorating to step outside one’s “normal practice” and engage the unknown and the unexpected. How else is one to grow?