I solved a problem with this painting today. I was really happy with the vertical composition, but it felt a little flat to me. I decided to create space by making the frame in to a mirror, rather than the painting I had intended. So far, I’m happy, but there’s still more work to do.
Archive for September, 2008
“When we can play with the unself-conscious concentration of a child, this is: art, prayer, love.” — Madeleine L’Engle
The story of Marla has fascinated me for awhile. Here is a child in a crazy situation, created by the adults around her. I don’t care about the controversy, but I wonder (and worry) about this little girl.
However, I had never considered this story from this angle before. It makes me think about my own work a little differently.
I learned something really important this week. It’s about Painting and Life. Hopefully I can explain it without confusion.
For the first two years I painted, I struggled with building a good foundation to my painting. I was so intimidated by the act of painting that I never really bothered to set my paintings up well, I just tried to get the canvas covered. I felt twitchy until all the white space was filled in with color. That meant that I just slapped things down without worrying about angles or measurements or composition. Sometimes I got lucky and it worked. Other times, well– let’s just say I have a large collection of wonky looking canvases hiding in the hall closet. It took me a while to get comfortable with the idea of empty space while I worked out the potential problems of each piece.
But, at some point I realized the importance of setting things up well. I realized that if I got the angle right on the first try, then I wouldn’t spend hours repainting in frustration. And since we were running out of space in the hall closet, I started planning and drawing things in a little more carefully before I threw the paint on the canvas. Instantly, I saw my work move up a level. More paintings were successful, fewer were banished to a dark room.
Things went along nicely for awhile. But I was still dissatisfied. Other people liked my work, and I wasn’t hiding it anymore, but it still fell short somehow. Again, sometimes I’d get lucky, but overall I still felt like it wasn’t quite finished–even though I’d planned well and followed all the rules. (Don’t ask me what the rules are, I haven’t really figured that out yet. I just know when it’s right.) My work looked fine, but I wanted it to look like this, or this, or even this. (Have I mentioned my lack of patience already?)
So this week, I figured something out. Painting is like life. I need to plan well and give myself as much information as possible in the early stages of a project. But once I’ve committed to the right direction then I have to let go of the original plan. See, once I started planning and drawing in detail, I found it hard to move past the drawing. For example, if I got the angle right on Mr. Potato Head’s arm, then I would paint all around it, but I’d be afraid to really paint it, because I might lose the part that’s working. The problem with this is that it makes for nice drawings, but only mediocre paintings.
See, paintings are all about edges. This is something I’ve known in my head for awhile– the eye perceives things and takes in information based almost completely on edges. It’s how you can tell the difference between a golf ball and a ping-pong ball. Or a tennis ball and a lemon. But knowing it in my head and knowing it in my paintbrush are two different things. I wasn’t happy with my painting because I was afraid of losing the drawing, so I ignored the edges.I might as well have been using a coloring book.
I was holding on to the original plan so tightly, that I couldn’t move past it.
Someone told me this week to let go of the drawing. And I realized– I’d gotten the drawing right the first time, so if I lost it, I could probably get it back. I also realized, that if I didn’t paint over the drawing, I’d never have a good painting.
So while I’m still a long way from Chardin, I think my work is about to move to a new level again. Because I’m letting go. And maybe one day, we’ll have room for coats in our hall closet.
I’ve just posted some high quality photos of some of my pieces on Imagekind. It’s a service that lets you order custom prints of my work. Since some people have requested that I repaint paintings they really like, I’ve thought of creating prints for awhile, but I was hesitant to make a large order of one or another. So this way, prints are available. I’ll probably keep them as limited editions, meaning I’ll remove them from the site once I’ve sold more than one hundred (ha!), but that’s not really a problem I anticipate having anytime soon.