Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Personal Voice

I don't know if all artists go through a reinvention process. I only know that after spending two weeks in the forest alone painting, I came out a different person. Since that time, I have looked at my massive body of work with a mixture of disbelief and disappointment. It's almost as if it didn't come from my hand, but was the work of someone else. Someone who was readily influenced by the demands of clients and was responsive to a public that constantly wanted something other than what they were doing as an artist. Believe me, I have been grateful for the work. And, I have been fortunate to have been able to deliver so many different styles of work for so long. But now, I'm finding that a different voice is speaking to me, a personal one. One that keeps asking: "What do you want to say?" And, I think that's an important question. So, I'm trying to answer it.

Little by little over the past two months, I've made some progress. It's not a verbal process, so it's difficult to express. I've thrown out more paintings the past two months than I've ever discarded in my whole life. And, I've saved a few from disaster by working hours on a tiny canvas in the studio. Something that would have taken me 20 minutes a year ago now takes me 10 hours. What I want to say is right on the tip of my brush...but I just can't seem to get it out.

The painting posted above was done this morning at Kensington. It comes the closest so far to what I want to say. The hard part about all of this is that I don't know how long this reinvention of myself is going to take. It's a process of disassembly, of unlearning, and relearning, of playing and of serious observation. It's wonderful and terribly uncomfortable at the same laughing and crying simultaneously.

What gives me hope is remembering the experience of seeing an exhibit of Degas' work at the DIA. They had x-rayed the works and exposed on separate images the number of times he painted and repainted his masterpieces. In some cases, they said the work was repainted several years after the original work was done. It was shocking to me that a "master" could be so unsure of himself that he had to paint and repaint a work that many times. But, now I find it comforting. Now, when I look about the studio, and I want to repaint parts of paintings that I once loved, I think of Degas. And, I wonder, did he at one point in his life look at his work from earlier years and feel the kind of disappointment and emptiness in them as I feel from mine? I doubt it. But it's still sort of comforting to consider it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Destroyer of Worlds

A few days ago I went to a film entitled: "Midnight in Paris." A line from that film haunted me. The author Hemingway is speaking to the main character, Gill, (also a writer) and he asks Gill if he is afraid to die. Because, Hemingway tells him, if you are afraid to die, you can't be a writer. He goes on to tell him that he must be fearless in all things.

I have been struggling with a mural for the past month and I had finally decided that I just wasn't going to get the effect I wanted with the I was about to give up and deliver it to the client. Over the weekend, I went Plein air painting with the Michigan Plein Air group...and my frustration with the mural seemed to have transferred to my painting there as well. I was disgusted with my work. At one point, I took the watercolor and dunked the whole thing into the creek. ...It made it better, but I decided to tear it up anyway and start over. I became a destroyer of worlds that own worlds. And, it felt good. Do we have to destroy to create? It turns out that to create something new, that's often the case. Or, at least, part of the old must be changed in order to create something new. Even creating from the void changes the void....

So today, I was drinking a cup of coffee and reading a book while sitting across the room from this mural that I had been struggling with...and I happened to look up at the mural while considering what I was reading. And, to my shock, the mural looked really good! Wow, I thought, maybe I just needed a few days of looking at it for my judgement to get out of the way. So I got up and walked across the room and as I got closer, it got uglier again. Then I realized I didn't have on my glasses. I had been looking at the mural from across the room without my distance glasses on...and it looked great. I had an AH HAH Moment!

Immediately, before I could forget what I saw from across the room without my glasses, I picked up my paintbrush and began a process of what I will call "blurring" of the image. All edges were softened and the shapes took on a blurred, but logical shape. It was no longer necessary to show leaves on trees or ripples in the water...they were there, only subliminally. When we look at the world, it is not a leaf at a time, but we know there are leaves on the trees. We can also only focus on one object at a time, and all others become slightly out of focus. I know this, I just forgot about it in my desire to paint every pretty fall leaf on the trees!

When I get a final photo of the mural, I'll post it here. Right now, I'm in the mood to least partially, some of my other paintings.

Peace out.

Painter and Classical Singer in Michigan

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