Oil painter Sylvia Shanahan presents a collection of landscapes rich in color and complexity. See more of her portfolio by visiting her website.
I call myself a visual philosopher. Why? Although my paintings are representational, they reflect what’s actually going on in my life or how world events are affecting me.
For instance, my paintings of Ophelia’s Pond, and most of my work for that matter, show a love of water which is, as Carl Jung states, “…the most common symbol for the subconscious.” As a painter, I find water fascinating and challenging at the same time.
I use my own photos as reference but not for color. Color is where my knowledge of theory and inner drives duke it out over what happens on the canvas. It’s where the soul, spirit and internal fibers of my being splash, squirt, spill and ooze. Yes, I can be a drama queen. But it is that cathartic, as any artist will attest.
There is a method to all this madness, though. I use the “fat over lean” oil painting technique and start with a colored ground. I find that the brighter the ground, the more interesting the color combinations. Plus, using a ground means less paint goes on the canvas.
Then many, many washes of color get put on, wiped off (almost), put back on with a slight color variance, covered up (almost) with fatter paint.
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Now the fun part starts.
While the pigment on the canvas is still pliable it gets tickled, or caressed, or slapped with brush strokes that get more confident as I get into the zone. I use several colors and variants of color throughout the process. If you accept my theory that it’s me spilling out on the canvas, well, I’m a complex amalgam of color, sometimes whimsical, sometimes muddy or raw or dark or light.
Just because you see blue on the canvas doesn’t mean there isn’t some orange, red, or blue green underneath it. What you don’t see is the alchemy happening in those layers enhancing the viewer experience and making it richer and more complex.
It’s been said that when you buy a painting, you are buying a part of the artist’s soul. I hate to use a marketing term for it, but I really think that creating is the simplest form of branding. When you see the Coca Cola logo, you relate to it somehow from your experiences with it. It reminds you that you’re thirsty and need refreshment like that fun afternoon when you watched your son’s T-Ball game and cooled off with an ice cold Coke. You didn’t consciously go through those steps. But that’s what happened.
When you view a painting there could be some sort of symbol, color, scene, composition, etc., that evokes an emotion, drawing you to it. Again, it could be subliminal, but hey, you like it.
And if it’s my painting you’re looking at, what you’re really saying is “I like Sylvia.” Because let’s face it; it’s Sylvia Shanahan on that canvas.
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