Thursday, 30 April 2015

How to Ruin a Painting

Hungabee Lake by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki, acrylic, 24x30 (Webster Galleries, Calgary)

Do you ever take a moment to figure out how you painted yourself into that hopeless far corner with no escape? I took a moment to trace back my steps and try to figure it out. After all, how can we improve if we don't know what we did wrong?

I typically overwork a painting by going back into it over and over again in a sort of a fixing frenzy.  It's a strange cycle of cowardice followed by poor anger management. It all happens in my head and if I knew how not to fall into this trap ever again I would write a book just on that one subject. I am sure it would help many of those who have the same problem. In the meantime, I can write the little that what I know about it in a  blog! 

This thing attacks me periodically and it seems to get triggered by some unpleasant event that intrudes into my mind and prevents me from fully getting into the zone. The key to avoid the next stage is to recognize when this happens and do whatever it takes to get it out of the mind - meditate, exercise, read a book, take a bath. Just do not under any circumstances, work on a painting.

When I ignore the signs of trouble, what happens is that I start painting too timidly and half distracted as if my ears are full of water and my senses just can’t get a grip on the situation. From some bizarre reason I keep believing that the painting will find its own way if I just go along with it. What really happens is that I work pensively instead of confidently. The painting might even appear to start unfolding happily, like a joyful child frolicking in a meadow. But at some point, hours later, I realize that the thing is going nowhere, the child is now hungry and scared and it’s getting dark. The poor painting is begging for help. 

This is the second point where the best thing to do is leave the studio. If I can just notice this switch of emotions and be reasonable and rational, and make an exit. I wish! Instead, that's where anger takes control. I must protect my creation and I start furiously “fixing it”, and at the same time slapping myself for being so foolish to get into this situation in the first place. Needless to say that the brushstrokes are by now sticky-dry and bumpy and all in wrong places, soft edges are lost, composition errors  are laughing back at me. Someone may even ask the dreaded question:  “Why did you spoil it!? I loved the way it looked yesterday.”

If there wasn't just a delicious passage in it, it would be chucked away, but in truth, I have been able to salvage such paintings with decent success, so the battle isn't always doomed. The Hungabee Lake painting I posted here is one of those saved babies - everything that could go wrong went wrong with it, but in the end I was very pleased with the result.

My experience is that simplifying and strengthening the composition usually helps, even if the surface quality isn't impeccable any more. But when the composition is beyond help and the surface is ruined, all I am left with is a reusable stretcher. There is a landscape with a lovely creek and a mess of the background waiting for me in the studio. I think I’ll sleep on it.

Happy Painting!


Tuesday, 14 April 2015

From Calgary to Santa Fe!

Odaray Mountain Reflection by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki, acrylic 20x24

I am thrilled to have five of my Yoho paintings available for viewing and sale in Calgary, in the wonderful Webster Gallery. This is the first time that my work makes appearance in Calgary in a commercial space, although I had pleasure to participate in various group shows across Alberta over the years. If you happen to be in the area, I hope you will make time to visit - there is nothing like seeing paintings in the real life! Good selection of my paintings can also be seen in a few Vancouver, Whistler and Edmonton fine galleries, with friendly staff always happy to help.

So what's with Santa Fe?

It's been my dream for many years to make an homage to the Georgia O'Keeffe land and to see that incredible, pastel colored, organic-patterned landscape that she made famous in her paintings. And finally I did! I got a chance to visit the famous Ghost Ranch and hike the same mesas where Georgia did her magic. The experience is memorable, as you can see from these magical pics.

I admire Georgia for many reasons, some of which can be taken as excellent lessons for any painter:

  • With a very slight change in tone, and surprising, poetic shifts of chroma, she had composed the most beautiful compositions. It doesn't really matter what her subject matter was; be it a flower, a desert-weathered horse scull or a gently wrinkled landscape, sensitivity of chromatic forms is amazing! I wish I had days rather than hours to spend in the Santa Fe Georgia O'Keeffe Museum
  • Georgia's drawing skills were stellar, and she had an impeccable taste in using them. In a semi abstract painting, among whirls of ambiguous shapes, you can find just a couple of beautiful, masterful lines that are pure poetry. She never hits you over the head with mastery. She lets you search and discover it for yourself.
  • And most importantly, she had created a beautiful life for herself, doing things she wanted to do, in the place of her choosing. Imagine moving to another side of the continent and making home among strangers, all on her own, at that time and age. She did it courageously, with certainty that she chose the right path, and judging by everything we know about her, she was right.

Georgia's attitude, her life and her work inspire me and encourage me to be at least a little bit bolder and braver with my art. I hope that she inspires you too.