When I first began to paint i had limited time and, to some extent, limited ability. In a sense that simplified the process for me immensely. I didn't have enough skill (or perhaps I did, but I certainly didn't trust it) to paint from life, so I was limited to working from 4" x 5" photographs as I felt my way through the maze that is watercolour. I produced one painting every 3 months (on average) and that at the time, was enough to keep me feeling as though I was accomplishing something.
The other factor to consider was that at the time, I knew even less about photography than I did painting. As such I was force to paint a wide array of subject matter. I knew what I liked, but I had to get my reference materials by trolling through other peoples photographs. This not only caused me to paint a wide array of subjects, but also in a variety of styles, as something from the original reference material always remained.
That is to say, I never painted the same thing twice.
Every single time I would look for something different. Different angles, lighting materials settings times of day, color palettes, techniques and so one and so forth. But gradually as my skill improved and I began turning my attention to oil painting the length of time between painting shrunk. My need for reference material doubled. Then tripled. Till finally I was out of photographs.
My time with M:R gave me a new outlet for subject matter, insofar as I learned to paint from observation. Now I can work from either photographs or observation (which I prefer now). However, I feel that (to a certain extent) my extensive work with the M:R setup (two pieces of fruit and a metal/glass object) has handicapped my ability to think outside of this traditional "teaching" set-up.
A traditional "student" set-up. Now with bread!
Also, as I've mentioned before, I hate the "three general tones, three tones in each area, lightest lights darkest darks" way of painting. While very effective to familiarize students with paint and teach them their basics it seems to me an awful way to paint. In my personal opinion, it smacks of impressionism. Don't get me wrong, some impressionism I like, but as I refine my work, I'm finding that I agree more and more with Gerome, in that impressionism is a sloppy, haphazard way to paint. So, I've deliberated added some other theories and techniques to my work, which I think has benefited me as a painter, but its still not helping me compose.
I'm still finding it hard work to shrug off M:R's compositional ball & chain but I do feel as though I'm making progress in this area:
Artichoke on a Brocade tablecloth. Without bread!
It's still a struggle. mostly because when I find something that works I am inclined to repeat myself which is something I definitely don't want to do. However this is perhaps my old habits of needing to do something different every time gnawing at me. Think for a moment of every artist you've seen in a gallery, in general, don't they all seem to be be painting variations on a theme?
And so, I'm looking for the next painting. I finished one yesterday, which I will post in a few days along with my thoughts on some color harmonies, palettes and Michael Hardings paint line.
watch this space.