How the Painter Sets the Stage

How the Painter Sets the Stage

When a painter, whether abstract or figurative, begins a painting there is nearly always an awareness of where color will go. How a painter creates an explosion of color on the canvas depends on the working methods of the painter and, to a large extent, the time frame within which the painter paints. In earlier centuries, for the most part, a painting was built up in series of layers using glazes and repeated layers of paint to prepare for the drama that was to unfold whether The subject was Jesus about to be crucified or a Dutch merchant ship sailing into the harbor. In more recent times, as the immediacy of painting became more implicit and the setting up of the ground (or background as most call it), it became a process that was not buried under layers of Paint but rather asserted itself with and against the ‘subject of the painting’ whatever that subject might have been. When Henri Matisse, the grand master of painting in the 20th Century, painted a simple still life of pink and red tulips on a grey green table against a blue grey wall, he would begin Not with the painting of the flowers but the painting of the space around the flowers. A preliminary drawing would be made most often in charcoal and Matisse would begin to fill in the space around things, the space around the flowers. His brush would move quietly, then Pick up speed and drama it would ‘ dance ‘ around the drawing of the flowers. The brushstrokes begin to collide and swim and toss and turn a...