Following a ‘What If I…?’ Impulse When Painting

Often when I am painting I follow an impulse to do something and then respond to what happens. I don’t have the route for creating the painting planned out before I start, but I do know what sorts of things the materials I’m using will give me so there are some parameters, it’s not a total “anything might happen”.

I don’t try to predict what kind of “what if I…?” impulse it might be, though the materials I’m using or have close to hand do influence it. Sometimes it’s a big shift (eg generously spraying water onto wet ink), sometimes small (eg adding a little bit of purple oil pastel to make a shadow area more colourful). Some paintings it never happens, and the result isn’t better or worse for it.

The video below shows such a moment. I had two small wood panels and intended to paint pebbles on both. Instead of painting on both simultaneously as I sometimes do, I ended up with one panel still blank and the other covered in paint (acrylic ink). Seeing how much was still wet, I had an impulse to place the blank board in top of the wet paint to transfer some if the ink.

It’s something I have done before, so I’m doing it with the knowledge of previous results, which range from minimal transfer (the paint was drier than I thought) to a smudged mess (very wet paint on paper that spread and mixed because I pressed down too hard). The worst that could happen was that I’d have a chaotic colourful mess, but that could easily be washed off or overpainted. The best would be an interesting starting point for a second pebble painting.

The photo below is what I ended up with. You can see how the colours make them a pair of paintings that sit together, and how the shapes in the colours on the left suggest pebbles.

I let the left-hand panel to dry a bit whilst I used a rigger brush to define some stronger pebbles in the right-hand one.

The light reflecting in the paint shows you how wet the paint is. It’s crucial to have the panel flat at this stage to avoid the paint inadvertently running and dripping.
As the ink starts to dry, the brush strokes of the rigger brush start to hold their edges rather than melt and blend
The dried painting is a mixture of wet-into-wet colour mixing and visible brushmarks. I enjoy this mixture and how the closer you look the more you see.

This is where the two paintings ended up:

The question now is, “Which way up do I hang them?”

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