Art with edge? Or knock-out paintings?

For a while I have wondered how to get some ‘edge’ into my painting. I have been searching for the slightly raw element, something (a bit) hard-hitting. It has been a bit difficult with seascapes. Exhibiting with other people often leaves me with the feeling that my paintings are just ‘pictures’ and (heaven help me) at times they are ‘pretty pictures’! This has led to quite a bit of despair, and up a few blind alleys. Ideas plucked from the air, ‘inspirations’ from sleepless nights, wild strikes…you probably know what I mean.

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia           !!!!!!!!

The other evening I read some notes by Roos Schuring on her blog. Roos is an intrepid painter who conducts plein air workshops on the beach. Her work is apparently simple, but her experience shows in assured brush strokes. Roos rises to the challenge of changing light, extreme weather conditions and all those other elements of the Great Outdoors.

The words that stayed with me were – firstly, use a bigger brush, and secondly something about the arrangement of blotches of colour on the picture surface. Sounds like that passage written by Maurice Denis, quoted here from Wikipedia:

In his famous proposal for the definition of painting, offered in 1890, he stated: “Remember that a picture, before being a battle horse, a nude, an anecdote or whatnot, is essentially a flat surface covered with colors assembled in a certain order.”

Aha! It is not about putting something edgy into a painting. It is about making great paintings. Surely that is the main thing?

So, on Monday I started to paint with a different approach. Not making the final work, just painting. Using a bigger brush and even bigger than that. I can imagine my old friend Dave Dallwitz (mentioned in an earlier post) saying about efforts to add some edge, “Don’t try to be tricky. Just paint.”

I had made a start on this painting in mid-September, before we had our family events (hatch, match and detach).

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia

I have deliberately left the surroundings in. Beautiful weather!

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia

We have had cold, wild windy spells since September, but on Monday conditions were perfect again.

While street artists have it in spades, I think looking for ‘edge’ has been a false goal for me. What do you think?


12 thoughts on “Art with edge? Or knock-out paintings?

  1. Using a bigger brush is a great idea (and then an even bigger one !) – I constantly “try” to do this and then realise I’m using a point 0.0oo…. (almost!). Also, there is nothing wrong with “pretty pictures” – if they make you happy, and other people too, surely that is a good feeling ? Why not try some “experiments” in the “cold,wild, windy, spells” just paint with abandon and see what happens ? Maybe when weather conditions are “perfect” there is pressure to produce a “perfect” painting ? (p.s. P, I tried to “like” your post but WordPress wouldn’t let me , so I’ve rambled on instead – take it with a pinch of salt :-))
    very best, V xx

    1. Yes, V, I like your idea! There was a picture of Roos on the weather channel showing all the folks waist-deep in blowing sand, with easels etc. But I won’t go as far as that. I’m going out this morning to paint with the outdoor group (after 12 months in the studio & balcony). Darn, the weather is nice! Valued ramblings by the way.

  2. I will say that art with an ‘edge’, something to say, resonates with me. I taught my students about Munch for years for example.
    BUT, to address the soul from the other angle is equally importany, and this my passion for Monet Kandinsky Rothko Hockney Matisse…. and funnily, I only was reading that quote by Denis in the last day or so. And before I get howled down I’ve a huge list of women whose work I’m passionate about as well. Do we start? Where? newmarch, Hanrahan, Moffat Frankenthaler….

  3. I like that you are questioning your art – we all need to do that constantly otherwise we DO end up with pretty, formulaic paintings. Large brush expressionism or small brush realism – it’s all grist for the mill. I took a class recently where brushes were not allowed at all and we had to find alternative ways to apply marks to surface. I used huge sheets of brown butcher paper and applied paint with rags, paper towels and a squeegee – so freeing. In the end though it all comes down to where we want to go and how we want to get there. As I write I look at the confident bold and free strokes of your blog’s background image, nothing tight or pretty there. I also think of the seascapes of Turner and wonder if you have ever tried his style.
    “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time”.
    T. S. Eliot

  4. Great quotation. ‘It’ is under our very nose, but we need to take the long way around! I like the idea of the blunt-ended tools with the rawest of grounds. A while ago I read a conversation (with Mobius Faith?) among replies to a post of yours in which he said “Pity the poor souls who have to work towards a show” (not verbatim). I have been caught in that web, although the show is not until next June. Plenty of time for luscious mistakes really! Must remember that. Yes, to the Turner style. Have done one. I revere his ability to layer and glaze to achieve the atmospheric effects. I have a colleague (have to declare she is also a dear friend) in Melbourne who does similar things.

    1. Clear as the nose on our face? Perhaps I am reacting to ‘trend’. Should be glad not to be fashionable (I was never the cool kid at school). Thanks for your thoughtful comments Patti.

  5. What a coincidence–to be reading this discussion today! I experimented last night with compressed charcoal, the drawing equivalent of a large brush. The results thrilled my life drawing teacher(the now-famous Larry Christian), and I will probably share them with you next Monday through my blog, but in the meantime just wanted to let you know we are kind of in the same place, striving-wise. Isn’t it fun!

    1. Yes, it is fun Aline. Early last week I was wishing for a mentor in all things art but this is a good sharing community, discussion-wise. Compressed charcoal – the strong stuff! I look forward to your posts.

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