Monday, February 16, 2009

Thoughts on Current Work

I am working on a largish, 20x24 I think, landscape of the river and some trees in acrylic, on a canvas that I glued with Elmer's to an MDF panel. I've taken it to the river to work on it twice, for a few hours each time, and its gone totally south. Its disturbing to think of putting so much time into something that just seems to get worse and worse, but sometimes good things arise out of that sort of effort, which makes me not give up (yet). I had hoped the acrylic experience would be seamless and easy, but instead i find at this scale it is frustrating and too difficult to get the feeling I want. Besides that, it is unpleasant to work with after the initial painting. You can't tell if it is wet or not, and when you scrape it it feels like plastic. Which is is, I guess. The smaller paintings i've done do have a brighter quality to them, which i liked, but the larger paintings seem too difficult to sustain.

The landscape with the sky-river-trees is a theme I've returned to hundreds of times. I can't say why this particular one interests me. I've painted from the exact same spot many times, I suppose I could paint forever from there.

The stuggle i have is so basic. It seems like a technical one to me- how to get the right colors on the board in a way that takes advantage of the qualities of oil paint. That's it, really. But although i've been doing it for 30 years, off an on, i still read beginner books on it, i am still puzzled by the brushes and paints and what the best method is. That strikes me as strange. As if a violin player was still trying to learn how to tune his violin.

I am though, learning a few things. Or at least trying out a few things. I am thinking more about what the bottom line in the painting is- what is the primary quality in the landscape that I am trying to capture. This is so when i return to the studio and want to work on it i can recall what is important.

I am thinking more about the composition and "architecture' of the picture.

I am thinking more about how much of the landscape is gray. And I am using black- not a mix- for black where i see it.

I am thinking more about the experience itself and what it means to sit there by the river with a painting not working out. But how, like playing music, the importance of the act may be in painting, not the product (this is hard to understand though).

I am thinking about how I think I know which paintings are most interesting of mine as i paint them, but how inevitably people like what i think is the least interesting.

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