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Hans Hofmann Paints A Picture

...Hofmann has evolved no rules for the making of a picture. On the contrary, always on guard against intellectualism and virtuosity, he says: "At the time of making a picture, I want not to know what I'm doing; a picture should be made with feeling, not with knowing. The possibilities of the medium must be sensed. Anything can serve as a medium - kerosene, benzine, turpentine, linseed oil, beeswax...even beer," he adds jokingly. He usually works with a full palette, but for "Fruit Bowl, No. 1" he used only four colors - white, red, blue and yellow - bringing in one more, crimson, when the picture was almost finished. Revealing his taste for extremes in impastos, he states that he "may use a hundred tubes for one picture, or one tube for a hundred pictures; lots of medium or none at all." During the making of a picture, he gets covered with paint and spatters everything around, but he is scrupulous about clean materials. A can of turpentine and a huge roll of gauze are always handy for cleaning his brushes and palettes at the end of a session. While working, however, he very rarely stops for this purpose. Lavish with his materials, he keeps his studio well-stocked with "all instruments possible for the making of a picture." A large assortment of palettes (panes of glass, pressed-wood boards, table tops), palette knives, jars full of brushes, boxes of tubed colors, rolls of canvas, bristol boards are all neatly arranged, ready for immediate use. He usually paints on heavy-duck - originally for the sake of economy, but now because he finds it holds up better than linen against his battering technique. He prepares the raw canvas himself with flat white to close the pores, then a gesso ground, which me maintains is the only ground that does not turn yellow. (Its one disadvantage is that these pictures cannot be rolled because they would crack.) Although he likes his pigment applied generously (Hofmann is often amused by his students' "starving palettes"), he tries to keep areas of canvas uncovered throughout the development of a picture, as its texture and color are important foils for the variety of his impastos and tones. (In the final version of "Fruit Bowl, No.1" for instance, the cone of paper, the area around the dots in the cellophane and occasional edges of planes are still raw canvas.) "If I lose my ground, I have overshot my aim," he says, and in this case he restates forms with white paint (he uses Permalba) to find his bearings again. White is the most important color, the artist finds, "since it is the most neutral and the finest shades always take a definite relation to it." By "pure color," a term that Hofmann constantly employs, he does not mean color as it comes out of the tube. Any mixture, he maintains, can be pure; it is in their relationship - as, for instance, the juxtaposition of tones to create the illusion of light - that colors may become dirty...

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