This summer I learned a new word from one of my students. Ungapatchka caught my ear for two reasons: firstly, it is so much fun to say, and secondly, the word sounds like the thing it describes. Since I was a Literature major in college, I am a big fan of new vocabulary. Watch this space, because I have a few more vocabulary additions in store for the blog!
My student felt everything in her painting was too cluttered and loud, lacking unity. I’ve often felt this about work in progress, and the thing I do to remedy it is to simplify. Recently a friend mentioned that in general my work could use more emphasis on the focal areas and more mystery in the rest of the painting. Mystery is the opposite of Ungapatchka! So, I have been trying to simplify and unify areas of my work. I want to make sure that one area is strongest and the other areas are sublimated.
If an abstract painting is too cluttered, it draws the eye away from the focal area of the work. While some contemporary painting celebrates busy, all-over pattern, I don’t think my skill set supports that kind of style. I want much of my painting to feel soft, muted and quiet in support of the parts of the work that are most important in contrast, shape or movement.
Watch Me Simplify
Here are a couple of videos of me working on an oil & wax piece. You’ll notice that early on, I’m making pretty drastic changes in the layers, while toward the end of the process, the changes are much more subtle. The earlier work looks more ‘Ungapatchka’ to me. What do you think? The second video is longer. Watch as I make some stronger changes, then subdue them by taking off the paint I just put on. (If the videos are not displayed in your email, click here and here to view them on the web.)
What do you think?
Should we avoid clutter in our work at all costs, or do you agree with Mae West?
“Too much of a good thing can be wonderful!”
Ruth, Ungapatchka is my favorite Yiddish word! I was so surprised to see it on your blog post that it drew me in. Loved seeing your workspace and watch you paint!
Thanks Myrna! I fell in love with it as soon as I heard the word 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the post! It was great to see you at CWA 🙂
Oh yes, Ungapatchka in art, work and life. Thank you Ruth, validating that wonderful process!!! Putting on and hopefully taking off. The hardest thing to take off or let go. Yes, I do agree with Mae West, sometimes too much to handle. But we carry on. (I learned so much at your class at Menucha, it is sticking to my wild process.)
Thanks for your comment! So glad you’re able to use the principles we talked about in class!
What a wonderful word! Thanks so much for sharing your process and thoughts about your work!
Thanks Jansi! Glad you enjoyed it!