Monday, September 15, 2008

Study in Transparency

"To me, pencil drawing is a very emotional, very quick, very abrupt medium. I will work on a tone of a hill and then perhaps I will come to a branch or leaf or whatever and then all of a sudden I'm drawn into the thing penetratingly. I will perhaps put in a terrific black and press down so strongly that perhaps the lead will break, in order to emphasize my emotional impact with the object. ... I may go into tones at times but to me it is a very precice and very vibrating medium."

"With watercolor, you can pick up the atmosphere, the temperature, the sound of snow sifting through the trees or over the ice of a small pond or against a windowpane. ... I work with impulsiveness. I use eleven kinds of brushes, camel's hair or sable or an old house painter's brush. Sometimes a scrub brush. I've torn pictures in half trying to get into them, to get structure and weight and form and succulence and passion."

"I work in drybrush when my emotion gets deep enough into a subject. So I paint with a smaller brush, dip it into color, splay out the brush and bristles, squeeze out a good deal of the moisture and color with my fingers so that there is only a small amount of paint left. ... But if you want it to come to life underneath, you must have an exciting undertone of wash. Otherwise if you just work dry brush over a white surface, it will look too much like drybrush. A good drybrush to me is done over a very wet technique of washes."

[On egg tempera] "There's something incredibly lasting about the material, like an Egyptian mummy, a marvelous beehive, or hornet's nest. The medium itself is very lasting one, too, because the pure method of the of the dry pigment and egg yolk is terrifically sticky. Try to rub egg off a plate when it's dry. It's tough. ... You will notice that in my temperas I am not trying to to gain motion by freedom of execution. It's all in how you arrange things - the careful balance of the design IS the motion. It's a moment that I'm after, a fleeting moment, but not a frozen moment. Tempera is not a medium for swiftness; it's marvelous, but its not for the quick effect."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S DIARY Reflections While Shooting at Olson House, Part 4:

Several Wyeth images remained in my mind throughout my time shooting at Olson House, but one more than any other challenged my shooting. I wanted the same sense of transparency and motion Wyeth captured in, "Wind from the Sea," his homage to Christina after her death. Only once did I actually go to the window of Christina's room to search for it there. It wasn't the window or Wyeth's composition I wanted but something of the airiness and delicacy of his work, though I did think about getting curtains and shooting them there blowing in a breeze. Yes, if I do this again I will have to bring some spectral fabric or a bit of gossamer, but I know that what I really have to do is make gossamer with my camera. We have no pencil or paint, only light and lenses.

On Wednesday, the third day of the workshop, I was the only one there at sunup. It was thinking of "Wind from the Sea" as I began shooting the kerosine lamp through the kitchen window. Across the kitchen the geranium window admitted backlight. The house was still locked and I couldn't get in to move the lamp, but there were a wealth of compositions I could make by just shifting my camera a bit; a move as small as an inch sent reflections reeling while shifting the collisions of chimney, walls, window frame, and geranium silhouettes. I made 45 images of the hurricane chimney through the window. The one above is the most satisfying and the last shot. I'm not certain if it has anything to do with "Wind from the Sea" or Wyeth's transparency, only that they were in my mind, and in some sense I was being moved by the spirit of Wyeth.

Notes for Next Time: What I failed to do was watch this spot to see how it changed throughout the day or to "stage" it for another day's shoot. I was too busy looking for other angles on Olson House. I guess one must recognize that a rich photo site such as this, maybe any photo site, must be explored in stages. Does Tillman have a method for tackling big projects? Well, yesterday I found this article entitled, "Working Style," among his musings. It's reassuring to know he struggles with the same issues.