Forget the Axeman – It’s Finished When I Say It’s Finished

The holidays are here in full force, but I’ll admit that my head is more in the studio than in wrapping packages.  I’ll get the packages wrapped in time, I know, but it’ll be a last minute rush because something happened – a good thing – in the studio.

Of course, each good thing is balanced by something else, and yesterday it was balanced by knocking over a ceramic mug holding brushes in water.  The mug smashed to bits on my tile floor and I was left mopping up the gray water and shards before I could get back to work.  Well, Mercury is in retrograde and these things happen.

The good thing is that I began reworking the painting I posted last time (Me afraid of the axeman?  Not on your life!), and the result makes me so happy that I’m off today to pick up a couple more 15 x 30 canvases to turn one painting into a triptych.

Although I had not read any of Robert Henri’s The Art Spirit in the last couple of weeks, this book has become my go-to guide, and yesterday – after the reworking – I happened on these words:  “Very technically speaking, thicker paint, a fearlessness in painting over and not being afraid of spoiling in so doing, may be conducive to a development of more solidity…”

Are you listening, axeman?  The painting is finished when I say it’s finished.

The other part of the good thing is that once I finished, I realized that my vertical painting had become horizontal.  Now this is not just a matter of randomly turning it one way or another; this is a matter of the bricks telling Kahn what they wanted to be.

When I work with writers, I tell them to pay attention to the subconscious which often knows more than the writer about what to say and what’s happening in a poem or essay or story – things the writer may not learn for some time to come.  I’ve had the experience myself with writing and now I’m learning to trust it with the art.  I intend to pay attention.

I’ll be on the alert for the axeman, but as confidence builds – along with the layers of paint – and as my trust in the subconscious takes hold, I’ll do just what I do with the writing:  I’ll start with a general idea of what I want to create, a general idea of the palette, a general idea of where I’m headed, but I will always – always – let the paint have the final say.

Here’s the painting I posted last time along with the final result:

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I’ll wrap the packages later…

Happy holidays and creating time to all!

 

 

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A Note on Technique

Last time I posted a photo of a recent painting, “Map of the Elusive Waterway,” and it generated a couple of questions about my technique.

Did I have a plan when I started a painting?  Did I just throw the paint on and see what happened?

I think any abstract artist might be asked similar questions.  Anyone who thinks Jackson Pollock’s drip or action paintings are entirely random and could be painted by a five-year-old must have the idea that there was no thought behind the finished work at all.  (Please don’t think that my mention of Jackson Pollock is in any way a comparison of my work with the master.  I have miles to go…miles and miles!)

Yes, abstract painting has a different “feel” than realistic work in which the subject is readily and clearly identified.  But most abstract painting includes thought along with emotion.  The answers to the two questions I was asked are Yes, I have a loose idea of what I want to create when I start a painting and No, I don’t just throw the paint on and see what happens.

Like other artists I consider design and space along with color theory, matching how the painting feels as it evolves with what I know about the basics of painting.  I also work in layers – layer upon layer – for the end result.

Because a single photo can never show the depth or detail of what’s on the canvas, I’m including here the original photo of “Map of the Elusive Waterway” along with a few close-ups of various sections of the painting to give a better idea of the texture and layers.

It’s all in a day’s work.  Or in the case of this painting – several days’ work.  I paint with acrylics which dry quickly – both a blessing and a curse – but even though the paint dries quickly, it still takes me several days to complete any one painting.

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