July 15, 2013

Dipping Into and Out of Abstraction -- part 1

Ever since I started painting, I have thought of myself as being a realistic/representational painter. Like so many self-taught painters, initially my painting style was very tight.  At the time I was painting almost exclusively in watercolor, which is a medium much more dominated by realism and that often values precision. But, even so, I realized that the most compelling pieces often had looser/more abstract parts within them. Thus, while didn't feel much pressure to experiment with abstraction in general,  I came to understand that if I let myself get looser, less literal (at least in parts) my paintings could be more interesting.
Teacup Pineapple, watercolor on
paper by Tracy Feldman 8 x 8", 2004

The little watercolor to the left is currently available on auction in my Daily Paintworks Gallery. It is an example of my  loosening up within a very realistic piece.  I reached past the literal by messing around with placement and how I named the piece.  So, I did a very realistic painting of a mini pineapple and a teacup for which it was named. I also placed the items on a tablecloth decorated with pineapples.  For me, it was an amusing piece of "reality with a twist". But as the years went on, I had a growing feeling that in order to keep growing as a painter, I needed to challenge myself even more by allowing myself to let go of my realism touchstone.

Reef,  by Tracy Feldman,
Acrylic on Canvas, 24 x 36" , 2010/11
Something that helped me loosen up was expanding my painting milieu to include oils and acrylics.  Being easily able to paint over sections of paintings to change the composition and coloration helped me feel safer using a looser painting style.

By 2010, I was willing to take a foray into abstraction.  I took an abstract painting class at the PA College of Art and Design.  During that class, I found that a brother-in-law of mine was ill.  I worried about him, and knew there was nothing direct I could do to help since they lived in another state.  So, I decided to use a number of his underwater photos as the inspiration for  an abstract work and send him good energy while I painted. That one piece grew into a series of figurative abstracts -- which means in my case that while my painting had identifiable "real world" shapes, the objects in the pieces were so simplified, and the color scheme modified in such non-naturalistic ways, that the final pieces became abstracts.  

But, these abstract works clearly didn't signify that I was moving from realism to abstraction.  At the same time, for example, I also was painting a number of very realistic pieces.  Furthermore, the next year, while my husband and I once again went to Galway, Ireland for his sabbatical, I went back to realism. More on this topic in tomorrow's post.


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