If you have ever accompanied a painter to a museum or art gallery, then you've probably witnessed the strange but common behavior of "side-viewing" - that is, the tendency of artists-who-paint to eschew the normal viewing position in front of a painting and instead press awkwardly up against the gallery wall next to the work and stare probingly at it from the side.
A security guard might guess that people looking at art this way are casing the joint - checking to see just how securly the paintings are fastened to the wall. But in fact, the main reason painters look at paintings this way is because, from a technical standpoint, the side of a painting is often just as interesting as the image on the its surface.
|Jonathan Wateridge, Panel, 2012, oil on linen, 13 3/4 x 19 3/4 inches, at L&M Arts|
|Jonathan Wateridge, Panel, 2012, side view, at L&M Arts|
Since the side of a painting is usually not intended for viewing it is often left in a raw state, exposing the telltale marks of its creation. What type of canvas was used? How was it fastened to the stretcher bars? Was it store bought or hand-made? What type of ground was used to prime the surface? How thick was the paint applied? What colors are hidden underneath the colors seen?
All paint is to some degree transparent, so the colors underneath those actually seen on the surface can dramatically effect an image. And often times the only place to see a hint of what colors may lie beneath is in the subtle bleeding that happens on the painting's edge.
|Jonathan Wateridge, Lift I, 2012, detail, at L&M Arts|
|Jonathan Wateridge, Inter, 2012, detail, at L&M Arts|
Not only can "side-viewing" give you insight into how a painting was made, it may also give you some insight into the artist who made it. Were they a neat freak? A slob? Somewhere in between? Are the corners of the canvas folded as tight and perfect as an army recruits bed? Or are they awkwardly fastened, smudged with fingerprints and drips of paint? These interesting tidbits can be clues into the artist's intention or at least hint at what they found important enough to focus on. You can learn quite a bit from the side of a painting.
|Jonathan Wateridge, Blind, 2012, side view, at L&M Arts|
Jonathan Wateridge is a painter worth learning from. His show Inter + Vista is currently on view at L&M Arts in Venice, CA through March 2nd. Check it out if you're in the area or follow the link to the L&M Arts website where they have a wonderful suite of installation shots from the show.
(Image at top: Viewer observing Jonathan Wateridge's Fog, oil on linen, 111 x 158 inches, at L&M Arts)