A WEEK AWAY
Just finished a short residency at the Vermont Studio Center. Every year, the VSC offers a chance for Vermont artists to apply to spend one week there and this year I got to go. They provide a dorm, a studio and all meals. It’s pretty much a dream opportunity for someone like me — so often the organizer of minutiae in my family’s life — to get to be provided for and without demands for a week.
I painted my little heart out. It was remarkable to have so many hours each day to work, take a break, and come back to the work. The studio they gave me was so beautifully lit that I could even paint in the evenings after dinner. I would sip a glass of bourbon and keep working till 10 or 11 or 12, then take myself over to my dorm (23 steps away) and hit the hay. Deluxe.
For the last couple months, I’d been noodling on how to use painting to try and get at some of the struggles people go through — but without making depressing pictures. Also, wanting to paint portraits of regular people, and not just models. At first I talked to a few friends about modeling for me and I developed some ideas for what I would have them do… but these images came from my experience and it felt sort of fake to essentially pop their bodies into paintings about my issues (if that makes sense). But as we talked, I realized that they already had some images that resonated for them and so we worked together to set up a couple photos I could use as references last week.
I envisioned these as studies for larger pieces… for a few reasons. It takes some pressure off to think of it as an exploration and not a finished piece, so I can relax and try to worry a little less about how it will come up. Smaller pieces often take less time and I only had a week. I could see if these pieces would even work — would they get at what I thought I wanted? Would other people be able to see what I hoped?
(above) a few of the studies from the week, all oil on canvas, various sizes
In the end, I’m not sure if I will do all of these, or any of these, as larger paintings. Although I do think they’re evocative, I’m not totally satisfied with the style — what’s the level of fit and finish I am going for in these images? The week helped me explore a bit of this, but I don’t feel like I found the answers yet. Well, on the bright side (which of course I only see at certain moments), this gives me some good homework for the future.