When i started painting again last year i mostly just went with what came naturally to me. I like drawing people, so i started painting portraits. I like strong colourcontrasts, so i chose bright colours.
I have two fellow painters in the course i am doing who have similar themes in their painting. One of them has a very expressionistic, bold style. She expresses strong emotions in bright colours. The best work she did last year was a series based on religious paintings, Jesus suffering on the cross kind of thing. Another painter does mostly paintings of children. Her paintings are also about emotion, but in a very different way. She has a very classic style and uses very subdued colours, the emotion she portrays is pure, but very nostalgic.
I thought for some time that my painting would lead me to something similar. I visited Spain a couple of times in the past and spent a lot of time in the prado being absolutely fascinated by Zurbaran and Murillo (and lets not forget el Greco or Goya's black paintings!) . I really admire the guts it takes to go to those basic emotions. When it works it is absolutely breath taking. Of course if you are a less talented painter you might end up with a crying gipsy girl kind of painting (you could argue that murillo is already close to that, but his children are so well painted and there is this realism in there which just makes it all worth it. How does he do that?)
But is it emotion i want to put into a painting? the more i paint the more i feel like i am not trying to express any kind of emotion. It feels more like I am looking for a balance. I feel like finding that balance between different colours, between different elements in composition, between light and dark, transparent and thick paint, it is not just technique that has to be mastered and adapted so a certain story can be told, finding this balance is part of what i am trying to achieve somehow. Which doesn't mean i want to start doing abstract paintings. It probably does mean that what i am trying to do is very different from what my classmates are doing.
Two questions i want to figure out next:
- What if you look at expressionist painting in this way? How do they express emotion and how much of the intensity of their work comes from composition and colour? i especially need to think a bit about one of my favourite artists Emil Nolde and what he does with colour and composition.
- Chinese painting of the 17th century goes very close to being abstract painting, but manages to still be very expressive. Balance doesn't seem to mean restfulness or quietness, it can be quite expressive. How does that work?