Thursday, August 23, 2012
Some of my paintings are a wrestling match, I sneak up on the idea and have to pounce before it scampers away, and then it's a tussle to get it onto the paper. I'm wrestling with a face on a picture right now. I spent all of last Saturday trying to get an expression just right -- trying things, painting them out and trying again. It's the sort of struggle that makes you question whether the entire thing wants to even be a painting or not, whether you pounced on it when it was on its way to someone else, to become a sculpture or a song. But there's something about the idea, it just works so well for this picture, if only you could just get that face right.
This painting though, this one on the easel, came to me all at once when I read the passage. It was fuzzy and vague, but all complete. It was as though I'd peaked behind a curtain and there it was. I sketched out what I thought it might be, and whoa there it was. And then I blocked it out on paper and yes, it's still there, just as I hoped it would be.
Because it looks so good to me now I hesitate to add too much too it -- I don't want to over work this one. I don't want to rush past the finish line and start laboring over something that was supposed to be finished before I added this or that unnecessary thing. Less can be more sometimes. But that's a fine line, and it's rare that I am alerted to the approach of that line so early on. (I tend to barrel through things in cases like this, carried on by the frothy insouciance of youth.) It takes a lot of effort for me right now to take a step back and asses. This painting is very generous, and has been screaming NOT YET! WAIT! MAKE SURE FIRST! It's demanding my full and undivided attention, and because of all the other things going on in my life right now, it's also very patient with me. I talk to it every day that I don't work on it, asking it to wait, and thanking it for waiting.
It was a combination of Other Things To Plan For and a solid week of temperatures over ninety degrees fahrenheit that drove me out of the apartment -- and out of the city -- last weekend. It was supposed to be my last full day to work on pictures before things get truly crazy. Big car trip, that friend of mine's wedding, and something else I'll tell you about here in a few days. But it was hot and I had a really good painting that wanted me to wait and think about it, to wait until I wasn't so distracted any more. So I took my distracted brain for a drive.
I joined up with some friends camping on the coast, near a tiny little functional town. Two members of our group were listened and experienced clam diggers and oyster-finderes. I didn't witness this but I did enjoy the results of their labors, eating my first raw oyster fresh from the bay. It was magical. I walked along the bay for a long time in the early morning, marveling at the blackberry / morning glory / other-things thicket, watching innumerable tiny fish jumping, spotting kingfishers, herons and cormorants. Just the thing for a distracted brain.