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Decision making process (part 1)

I wanted to record some of the thought process when I'm painting a still life. Part of the reason I find painting so fascinating is that there are so many choices to make along the way of producing a still life, but it's not until the end that you can really evaluate how the decisions played out.

One of the fist decisions was finding something to paint. I felt like I wanted to paint "from life" but didn't know what. In front of me was a random arrangement of objects that I thought could make an interesting composition of light and dark shapes.

The arrangement and objects seemed to allow me plenty of leeway to keep my eye on the general look of the painting rather than getting sucked into detail.

Still life is a battle ground for me between what I want to record and what makes an interesting painting and how far to take the forms towards abstraction. Composition is a purely abstract idea that is often the fist thing to suffer when the logical, fact recording aspect of painting takes over. If I can carry on looking at the overall relationship of shapes and colours I should be able to be get closer to an objective view of it, more like how somebody else sees it.

Another thing that fascinates me about painting a still life is that the colours keep changing as our brain keeps redefining the context (remember the blue and white/black and gold dress?). Any change in colour or value provokes a chain reaction, so it's best to stand back and see what the relationship of colours does on the canvas. Like the gears and pedals in a car, colour is a mechanism that has a visual effect to produce the illusion of volume, distance, separation etc...

But colour has another function that we can't ignore as painters; it provokes feelings. Like the relationship of notes it has a language that we have to keep in touch with, because even though we can't explain it, colour has meaning and that, I suppose, is why we paint.

Although it's not a still life I can't think of a better example to illustrate this than Van Gogh's self portrait that he gave to Gaugin.

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