Introduction to Theory Behind Methods
of Painting American Gothic

This is a system of painting of individual discrete steps, executed by one person or up to four people. The effort of the artist is not between steps but in the implementation of the stage of painting confronting him. The focus of the artist is a strong vibrant depiction of the step they are painting, be it in the style of Jackson Pollock or Andrew Wyeth, with no regard for the step before or afterwards.

Definition of terms: Grid is the fundamental underpinning structure of the rectangle and the reference for the composition painted on it.

Negative Image or NI is the depiction of that part of the painting not designated as Image.

Image or IM, the main or central figure of the painting. The NI and IM are classified before the start of the painting for the best effect of color and composition. The relationship between them in the planning stages is flexible but should remain static once the painting is started.

Kicker is the last step of the painting and most resembles conventional painting. This uses the color of the final step but isnít confined to it. This step is whatever is required to finish the painting. Ideally it would be one genius stroke culminating in a masterpiece. But more than likely is a studied and thoughtful bringing together the entire composition into one. The kicker is as its name implies; a finish to the painting. Itís not a dragged out laborious going over and over until the entire painting is redone.

This is a discussion of the theoretical underpinnings of the mural demonstration we witnessed Sunday afternoon Aug. 28, 2005 at the Vallejo Jazz and Art Festival.

We did 3 variations of Grant Woodís American Gothic. The variations were in the sequence of steps executed in the completion of the murals. If you examine the photos closely and the captions accompanying them you will see that the murals didnít progress identically. This was by design to highlight the nature of my painting system used to complete them. Referring to the theory page on my website, what we did was use a 4 step process for each mural but the first 3 steps were different for each mural. The same 4 colors were used in the same sequence but used for different affects.

(click for zoom)

  1. Grid
  2. Negative Image
  3. Image
  4. Kicker
(click for zoom)

  1. Negative Image
  2. Image
  3. Grid
  4. Kicker
(click for zoom)

  1. Image
  2. Grid
  3. Negative Image
  4. Kicker

In the first mural (the one on the far left) the step sequence was 1) Grid, 2) Negative Image, 3) Image, & 4) Kicker. In the second mural (middle one) the step sequence was 1) Negative Image, 2) Image, 3) Grid, & 4) Kicker. In the third one (far right) the sequence was 1) Image, 2) Grid, 3) Negative Image, & 4) Kicker. The different results shown are due to the different steps taken. That and the fact that different people worked at different steps on different pieces.

The first one, the far left one (Grid, NI, IM, Kicker), the interesting thing is the 2nd step (NI, Green): an unknown drop-in came in, painted for a while and then left unfinished. Well, it could be argued, was she finished or not? Someone else came in and did the womanís dress in little green circles. At that point we decided to let it go at that and move on to the next stage. IM, (Purple Blue), applied pretty anemically be me, but then the kicker in yellow comics was really the coup de grace. That and the Green Negative Image makes this one of the more successful ones. The key to this is these abrupt changes would be difficult to plan for a single person. But allowing different people to come in and work unencumbered we got the benefits of their diverse points of view.

The second, middle one, (NI, IM, Grid, & Kicker) didnít come out as successfully as I had hoped. The Grid is in the third position just before the kicker. We didnít execute it with much fervor; itís weak. Whenever we have one where the Grid is the next to the last step I have great hopes because this is one of my favorite combinations. I find having the grid shown strongly just before the finish of the piece is very exciting. A variation I did in Photoshop is shown at right that shows the possibilities. I invite comments on this. I would like to hear what others think on this or any of the others. (click for zoom)
Photoshop Variation

The Third one, far right, (IM, Grid, NI, & Kicker) has a very interesting treatment of Negative Image. And the yellow striped Image is a screamer. The same factors that came into play as in the first one are happening here.

What we see here is the beginning of what Iíve been trying to do. Capture the differences between people and use them in a coordinated way. I think all in all this has been a very successful experiment.

Go to Theory for further in-depth investigation of how this system works. Also visit my galleries for examples of paintings using this system.

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