Friday, June 19, 2009

Breaking It Open

After a brief hiatus from blogging and the studio, I've returned with ideas to wrap up a few paintings. The luxury of working business hours in the studio during sabbatical has been rewarding but the working rhythm has been difficult to establish and all too easily broken. My normal working method during semesters is on a paint-when-able basis, consisting of a few hours here, an hour there, and even thirty minutes when I can take it. I teach literally next door so I run over whenever I can even if its just to eat lunch and stare at my paintings.

I may have mentioned that I don't have an end idea for paintings when I start. It can make the painting process daunting or slow-going to say the least. You could say I've grown to depend on resting intervals to come back and see things differently. It may be cliche, but I often do strike out quickly with a solution in apparent bolt-from-the-blue inspiration. Far from being a true mystic, I recognize inspiration, like intuition, as a cultivated faculty. I believe in the mind's back-burner, the thoughts that simmer, and the value of periods of gestation.

The big reason I went to Indiana University, aside from the scholarship, was to study with Robert Barnes. What little I knew of his narrative paintings I liked, and we seemed to share a decided non-academic bent to representational imagery. Well, one thing Barnes would talk about was "breaking a painting open." At 22, the last thing I could stand was timid or even careful painting so it wasn't much of problem back then. I had no idea how to finish a painting. Now, this current series is lending itself towards resolution, I can't bare to make it too easy. When I take some time away from the studio, I often have to come back and make a significant change to get the ball rolling again. (Sometimes regret tells me what to do, like the time I added the cockatoo to a finished, but boring, self-portrait after it sat around for a year.)

Today, the break was an insane amount of red highlights. I also found an old coat to reference the lapels I'd been imagining and brought it in. I've know for months that there was no consistent light in the painting, and that the coat was a big violet void between the hand and face. At first, I was convinced I liked that void, so common in medieval painting. Then I tried the red highlights, which didn't work, so I painted them back out. So a few hours ago, I scrapped some aging red paint off the palette, muddied it up with some phtalo, and I could just feel the wool. Okay, so I am a bit of a mystic. We'll just have to see how it strike me in the morning.

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