Reading the Surface

In our memories, I think we all have stored many images to use as we so desire, so I turn the painting upside down and sideways to see if any of these stored images will appear. When I find an image, I isolate it by painting around it with an opaque paint. (I choose a color I’ve used in the underpainting and then make it opaque by mixing it with acrylic gesso.) These opaque passages accent the image. The more I look at this image, the more I see in it. It tends to develop some meaning, and I continue working–developing a theme and bringing out the story in response to the images of the surface and to my own life experiences. When, in the beginning, I made choices in color, I established a mood or tone that my further work expands on and develops. I find I have created layers during this process, and I work from the large shapes to the smaller shapes and then I add details. As a final touch, I draw onto the surface–with charcoal, graphite sticks, paint or colored pencils–to highlight passages and to make marks. These marks are part of what I think of as my artistic alphabet–elements of my visual language. They are created in an abstract way, but add to the surface decoration and to the painting’s meaning.

Judi Betts is a painter, writer, instructor and juror. Her memberships include the American Watercolor Society, National Watercolor Society and Federation of Canadian Artists. Her most recent book is Painting… a Quest Toward Xtraord!nary. Her most recent article in The Artist’s Magazine is “Sketches of Color,” March 2001.

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