Picture Today

June 1, 2018

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Wildflowers, (work in progress). Oil and collage on canvas, 13 x 34 inches.

I’m not sure how I’m feeling about this one. The result isn’t what I envisioned when I started my journey with it. I’m now reconciling with its reality: what it wanted to be and therefore became.

A large part of the painting process is in this collaboration between the artist and the work. Sometimes the painter feels more in control, sometimes the work seems not to yield or only grudgingly. In my experience successful paintings most often come when a certain cooperation is achieved, the artist and the art working together in creation. Success can come too when the artist yields to the work, listening for its will and obeying.

On the other hand, success rarely or never comes when the artist imposes his will on the work. The victory in that case is a hollow one, and the result is formulaic, tight, uninspired or obviously forced. In my case I may like the painting when it is finished, pleased with my success. In time however, I will see the painting’s weaknesses and failures. In the end it will be recycled, repurposed or destroyed.

Time and distance are important in the process. First off, listening takes time as the picture develops. This is why passages that appear to be relatively straightforward can take so long to paint. I cannot attack the image with my preconceptions. Rather I must go slow. I plan and imagine and sketch and then suggest. I suggest and then I listen. I watch how my idea plays out on the reality of the canvas. Then I adjust and suggest again. All this takes time.

In addition, more time is needed after the actual paint wrestling has ended. There is more listening within the perspective that comes with enough distance from the struggle.

So, with these wildflowers, I’ve listened and struggled and been disappointed. I haven’t given up but I’ll give it a little more time and listen again. I’ll try to drop my ideas of what this painting should be, and come back to help it become what it is.

(For a fuller discussion of art and the creative process see the posting “What is Art?” in the menu above.)

 

 

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