Here's what I'm working on and thinking about at the moment:

in the studio


This is a phrase I’m using in my head right now to reflect how perfect or finished or technically exact an image is. I don’t feel like I’ve found the right balance for this yet. How much of it is about my technical skill and how much is my voice, my heart coming through in the work? And how the heck do I do that?

I’ve noticed that, often, as I develop a painting, I actually like the under layers better. Is that because I can see the potential but haven’t got the mistakes down yet? Or because something gets lost for me, the more I try to get it just right? Does the spontaneous energy that started the image get lost in the continued effort and attention?

Here’s an example of one of the paintings I developed at the VSC…


   (above) In process: 2nd Study of Tamatha, May 2019. Oil on canvas. 15x20″

Even though the last painting seems technically more completed, to me the most exciting of these is, ironically, the first one – just black and white and with lines that show the process, the architecture of developing the image. But can anyone else see what I see in it? I suspect that I see more than anyone else would because I have a notion of what the lines represent. It might be the difference between someone looking at Chinese characters who does know the language and someone who doesn’t. We would look at the same thing but see totally different things – I would see random lines and they would see words and ideas. In some ways, each of the lines, curves and shadows in the first image is a placeholder for me – but not one that others can necessarily see.

I do like parts of the development of the shirt, the skin, the roughed-in background… but I also love the idea of the original structure showing through – so that you have a sense it is very much made by a person. (I tend to think of this as the painting’s fingerprint – warts and all – and that the fingerprint is what you’re really looking for when you choosing a painting or thinking about art that you like). 

It seems like the answer is probably in building layers up intentionally – so that they keep adding a sense of a painting being constructed, not just appearing as if it came out whole cloth. Can I develop better skill in knowing which parts to build in detail and which parts to leave sketched out? And, of course, how do I incorporate this into thinking for future work?

Posted 5 weeks ago

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