Friday, October 19, 2012

Oxbow, Finish and Starting

Its an Oxbow.  A part of the river all on its own, still, mirror like. Left behind to fend for itself. Its not where I usually paint.

Its on the rough Harbor Freight canvas. But its a painting not there yet, I had a lot of distractions, and ended up with a lot of the painting on my hands. So I took it home, and above is how it started out, and below, back in the studio, is how it is now. Still in process.

I work things over in the studio and its like I've brought my paintings back to a torture chamber. I don't know what to do with them, except I know that I am unhappy with the way they are, so I flail on them. I try to punch in the essentials, and get rid of the superfulous, and finally, feeling smug, I see (sometimes much later), that I killed the poor thing. Damn it. Like some evil doctor.

It is such a tenuous process. Somehow, in the field, you are vaguely aware of the colors and values, and general shape, and you hack it out, and hope for the best. In general, this is disappointing, and there is no way that you are going to match what Intelligent Design has spent an eon working on. Well, 4,600 years. But sometimes, a day later when you pull it out of the mess in your truck, you think- well, that sort of looks what i remember. And then- god forbid,( if you lack the skill to do so)- you say: maybe I'll just neaten it up a bit and get it where other people will like it.

And yet- you can't- you're not there any more, in the cold, or hot sun, or rain, or bugs, or whatever it is, just the being there. And whatever little piece of electricity you get from being there, doesn't transfer down your arm and reach into the pallete for the right color, or the right shape, and its like your're painting a flower. I mean literally, you have a flower, and you paint on it, trying to make it look more like a flower. You can't paint a flower better than a flower is already painted.

Then I- and I switch from "you" as I realize that's presumptuous- (you probably have a photo, smart person, and work from that-) I get discouraged and think- well, this is because I was never properly trained in finishing a painting. And when I say that, its like this echoey sound, which resounds in almost anything I seem to do..."finish something", for god's sake. Yet it all remains undone, in flux. I think its the peculiar twist that I, and people like me, have. We're not finishers. We're starters.

There is, in any tiny bit of landscape, a wealth of possibilities. And color. It's true with the whole world: in a microscope, or a telescope, or just looking- there's color and shape and beauty. Which should be enough, but isn't. 

So there's also the motif, the central thing that interests you. and binds the parts into a whole.  It's a thread, at best I think. And carries from one painting to the next, from one year to another. Its somehow in everything, and resounds. And I see this, that in the landscape, I look for my "motif". Its a Cezanne thing, the old curmudgeon, always grappling with his motif. Its the thing that makes my heart beat faster, that intrigues me, and compels. One sets one's easel down on the ground, stomps on the cleats, and tries to untangle the elements. 

In this painting,  there was a long afternoon, and the warm perfection of an October sun, and a lot of thoughts swirling about, about life, and what it means, and being fulfilled, and what that might mean if I ever really figured it out. And with all that going on, I reach for paint, lay it in, look, and smooth things out, blending, destroying detail, looking for where the light is.