This painting is another of the ones I did at the very end of the workshop last week. Bob Burridge, the teacher, bless his heart, was kind enough to say "It blew me away." He also said, "You're a good surprise." I think his stuff is heading more toward the dissonant abstract (or whatever you call this kind of thing where it ain't decoration and it ain't necessarily pretty). He seems to have a real instinct for when a painting has what he calls fire in the belly. And, yes, when I was painting these things, I almost vibrated with the intensity of it. I think the drips make this one: light drips over dark, and dark drips over light. And maybe the weird palette. And the focal point that's way up at the upper edge.
A friend who subscribes to this blog wrote and asked if I have a theme or similarity in composition. Good question. Ideally you should have a concept you're exploring. I'd like to be able to say that I'm, oh, expressing anguish at man's inhumanity to dogs or some such (well, mistreated animals is a hot button of mine). But what I'm finding is that I have a process, and I do the process, and it helps me figure out what I like about it. It's kind of backwards. My process is this: 1.) I do an underpainting that lays down some color and patterns. To do this, I choose a palette and start with a very rough sketch of somewhere I've hiked or visited. I slather paint on it and manipulate that (scratch, spritz alcohol, tip the canvas, etc., etc.). Then I let it dry. 2.) I then go in with very wet paint, which I smear on with a piece of cloth (I like to cut up old T-shirts that would otherwise be donated), and sometimes a brush, or the edge of my fingers or whatever. And I start to simplify. That's when the dialogue with the painting starts. Hi! How ya doin'? (Not really.) How's the palette working? What's too complicated? What colors are distracting? How can I take advantage of the underpainting? And I build the painting that way. And I like to add the grace notes; the little spots of high color.
OK, back to the question of having a concept. I want to write an artist's statement, and today I've been paying attention to what I like, and what I've been doing intuitively. I'm finding things like this:
- I like organic marks, not highly labored paintings.
- I like to see some of the artist's process, some sign that a person was there.
- I like a sense of honesty. I don't like to be manipulated.
Anyway, I don't know if that's enough of a concept. Maybe it's enough to slosh paint around and focus my intensity on the canvas. I'm pretty sure that the paintings (so far) show zero sign of the beautiful scene that formed the underpainting. But maybe it's enough that the idea was there? I don't know.
Also, by the way, one weird thing that's I've found is that, even though these are the first abstracts I've done using this process, there's something familiar about it. And I think it comes from my doodling. Off and on through the years, I've found myself playing with cross hatching or crayons or whatever. And I've looked for patterns that were there and emphasized them. That's kind of all I'm doing here.
OK, one more thing. And it's about being an artist and facing fears. A couple of years ago I was so excited about painting small still lifes. Then, eventually, it petered out. Now I find myself afraid that this will fade, too. Of course, what makes it fade will probably be the desire (need) to do something different, but my emotions don't know that. They're afraid my creative drive is going to dry up. I hope I can come to trust that something new always comes up. It's the artist's life. Wear protective clothing.