I've been asked several times lately what I mean when I say my paintings are built up in layers. Hoping to shed some light on this, here is a picture of several paintings I've started in the past two weeks. What you see here is the first (--or what I think of as the "abstract expressionist"--)layer. The idea is to generate lots of energy and drama with color, contrast, mark making. Paint is applied quickly and spontaneously, although I'm also forming some ideas about where the painting may eventually head.
The arrangement of panels, the color choices, and other aspects of these paintings will change pretty drastically in the coming weeks. There are some outcomes I picture ahead of time--for example, the dark panel you see in the painting to the left is one that I plan to develop in light colors. The lighter panels above and below I see becoming much darker. The layers underneath will provide contrast when I scrape away bits of the paint in the final stages.But most of the time I don't plan how things will end up. I am far more entertained by discovery and surprise.
On the other hand, the overall process is
somewhat predictable. I will definitely add quite a few more layers with a variety of tools and techniques, mixing the paint with wax medium to give it added transparency and brilliancy, and gradually the surface will become comlex and nuanced.
Maybe the term "layer" is a little off, because I don't necessarily cover the whole surface in any methodical way--it's a bit looser than that. But I do treat the picture plane as a whole. A particular color or texture acts as a building block towards the final result, and is applied all at once across the surface of the panel.
Discretion and editing play are part of the process, of course--I select which areas will be active, for example, and which will be more quiet...where there will be contrast and where there will be only subtle transitions. The layers will become more refined as the painting evolves. I'll pull out particular colors, often one main color per panel. And gradually I will end up "hiding" much of the inital energetic imagery underneath the surface. These buried images are still there, however, showing bits of themselves here and there, and exerting their presence and energy.