Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Paint As If Every Brush Stroke Counts

[ Portrait of Baby Lorelei by John Paul Thornton]

How powerful is a single word? When we speak, should we mumble? Slur our words together? Bark?

I recently presented a series of painting demonstrations in Los Angeles that celebrated the lone, amazing, isolated brush stroke. I explored how each application of my brush created a distinct individual choice, each articulating information about form, space, structure, movement, light and color temperature.

Every stroke was left completely intact. No blending was attempted. Still, there is a softness due to the closeness of values, and exclusion of severe notes.

The ear is expressed with a few structural strokes.

The forehead shifts from cool violet to warm Naples yellow.

In a second portrait which was created with a more harsh, carved approach, I painted a young Nepalese refugee girl. This was painted very quickly, with a house painter's brush in a matter of minutes. Within a blink, the painting was done. I had no time to ruin it. In fact, it felt as if I wasn't even there to make it. Once again, no attempt was made to eliminate any of the character of the strokes. To my eyes, this painting maintains a directness and severity that reflected the strength of this individual person. Many of the brush strokes on the surface carry a surprising quality within their directness and refusal to lapse into a contrived smoothness.

[Portrait of a Refugee Girl, John Paul Thornton]

Every gesture describes planes , light direction, and the emotional starkness that the sitter conveyed to me. When painting this way, every choice becomes vital and must stand as distinctly alone, even while a harmony links the entire image.