More and more often I find my paintings overlapping with my writing. To put that more clearly, I find that the characteristics of my painting style overlap with those of my writing style. In other words, I’m finding my voice.
Today I worked on a painting I started earlier this week. I was pretty happy with the way it had gone – two large areas of color divided by a textured diagonal “line.” One side was a soft aqua I’d mixed myself. The other was Hooker’s green. The line was red with Naptholene Carmine against Indian Yellow Hue. So far, so good.
But when I looked at it last night, the whole thing felt too flat, with a kind of Stepford-wives too-perfect quality.
While I admire great technical ability, I’m not drawn to “perfect” paintings as things I want on my own walls any more than I’m drawn to “perfect” writing which always feels cumbersome and stilted to me.
I want rougher edges.
After looking last night, I over-painted with a lot of other colors, not sure where I was going with it (“paint, then think”) and left it to dry. This morning I knew where I was going.
I mixed up my soft aqua again and painted that half, then painted the Hooker’s green. But now, of course, there was something going on under those layers, something I liked a lot and I heard myself say, as if I were working on a novel or a short story, “Now there’s some character.”
Now it has depth, some rougher edges, and has become – like what I think of as the best literary characters – rich and complex. Textured. Not perfect. Interesting.
This new “character” on my canvas, whoever he or she is, has been around and has a story to tell. Maybe that’s the whole reason I’ve moved from writing to painting. More characters. More stories. More life.
One of my favorite drawing workshops was run by a woman who loved to show us the flaws in masterworks. She’d bring in slides of those masterworks and then point out the problems the artists had had. Hands and feet gave a lot of them trouble. Or maybe it was a nose or an impossible angle, a shadow in the wrong place.
It was encouraging to those of us thinking we had to make things perfect, and it was also instructive when we considered what art was really about.
Mirrors reflect perfectly accurate images. Art reflects life.