JOHN POTOTSCHNIK FINE ART

Motivation, process, and titles

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Those of us who have had children and now have grandchildren are quite familiar with the word “Why”, often followed by some words ending in a question mark.

Most parents remember the seemingly endless questions: Why is the sky blue? Why do elephants have trunks? Why is the snow white? Why does it thunder? Why is that policeman pulling us over, Daddy? Why can’t we go to McDonald’s? Why do I have to go to school? Why can’t I stick my finger in the light socket? Why can’t I wear my camouflage clothes to church? Why can’t I go home now? The questions just keep coming. Sometimes we’d like to say, “Go stick your finger in a light socket”, or, “Go play in the street”.

The painting, “Grandpa, Why…?” reminds us of those times when every question began with, “Why?”…and hopefully you always had a wise and gentle reply. Sadly, I did not.

The narrative for this painting actually developed during the process of painting. I think it expands the work and enables the viewer to relate to the piece on a deeper level. Below is the process followed in order to bring the painting to completion. (Click images to enlarge)

  Plein air study used as reference for the larger studio piece. Field studies are typically done on 100% rag paper and sealed with a ground of acrylic gesso. Paper size is 5.5″x 8.5″ and the painting area is masked off according to the proportion needed. Each painting includes the following info: upper left tells me where I can locate the photographic reference. Info below the painting gives location, sometimes the direction I was facing, time, date, and abbreviations detailing the palette used. Each of the studies are placed in archival sleeves and filed in three-ring binders…100 per book. I am currently working on the tenth book.


This is the plein air study used as reference for the larger studio piece. Field studies are typically done on 100% rag paper and sealed with a ground of acrylic gesso. Paper size is 5.5″x 8.5″ and the painting area is masked off according to the proportion needed. Each painting includes the following info: upper left tells me where I can locate the photographic reference. Info below the painting gives location, sometimes the direction I was facing, time, date, and abbreviations detailing the palette used. Each of the studies are placed in archival sleeves and filed in three-ring binders…100 per book. I am currently close to completing the eleventh book.

The palette

The palette. Top row: tube colors; Bottom row: tube colors with white added.

Paint mixtures found in painting.

Paint mixtures found in painting.

  Canvas is toned with a mixture of ultramarine blue and burnt siena. Lightest areas are rubbed out with a  paper towel. Accurate drawing begins using a soft brush and various mixtures of the above two colors.


The canvas was toned with a mixture of ultramarine blue and burnt sienna. The lightest areas were rubbed out with a paper towel. Accurate drawing began using a soft brush and various mixtures of the above two colors.

Drawing and redrawing continues. Decided to add to the story line through the addition of the  people.

Drawing and redrawing continues. Notice my messy corrections on the right. At this point I decided to add to the story line through the addition of people.

  Local color is applied in thin layers.

Local color is applied in thin layers.

Getting there.

The values and local color are well established at this point. It’s now just a matter of refining it to degree of finish I desire.

Grandpa, Why…?  –  14″x 24″  -  Oil on canvas

Grandpa, Why…? – 14″x 24″ – Oil on canvas

 

I am sometimes asked how I come up with painting titles, usually it’s not easy. I believe a painting’s title is important, in some ways it’s like naming your child, and you know how much thought you gave that. Poor titles identify the obvious, for example, “Blue Vase with Green Apples” or “Landscape with Mountains”, or the worst, “Motif”. Good titles should point to the not so obvious…something that gives a clue to the artist’s motivation, something that will cause the viewer to look deeper than just the surface.

For me, a title never precedes the painting. Too infrequently an amazing title will pop into my head during the painting process, as this one did. When I know it to be the perfect title, I almost let out a cheer, I’m so excited. Most of the time the title is chosen after the painting has been signed. I’ll sit and contemplate the work for some time absorbing its intent and how it makes me feel. I then try to express that in the fewest amount of words. Selecting an appropriate painting title can be a challenge sometimes, but the result is often worth it.

 

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John Pototschnik is an Art Renewal Center Living Master
To view his art and bio, please click HERE