Anyone who says painting is easy has clearly never tried. Each mark is the result of a myriad different decisions, some are conscious and some are led by intuition. Which builds through knowledge and practice. One of the hardest things when I started painting was getting over the idea that I had to know it all to begin with. I’m a conscientious person; I like the idea that effort and organisation brings its own rewards. Maths and physics tests with well defined answers were a dream for me at school. But in art, there is no right and wrong.
…actually that’s not quite true. While we all have different visual preferences we do also have a sense when something is ‘off’. I’m sure you’ve felt it; a painting is too heavy on one side, the tonal balance isn’t correct, a certain area just jars. You may not be able to put your finger on what it is, but you know if it sits well or not.
I’ve been working on a new painting this week – it’s the largest size I’ve ever worked at and it is bringing me plenty of new challenges! I’ve had to scale up all my brushes, I’m still not mixing enough paint, I’m using acrylics and the drying time on such a large scale takes some getting used to. I posted a detail on Facebook earlier this week mentioning that feeling when you have left something and the next day you return to it with a nervousness that it is not as good as you remember… Between Day 1 and Day 2, I was pleasantly surprised. But yesterday I mucked it up.
I don’t know why – maybe I kept working at it when I should have taken a break, or I wasn’t clear about what I was trying to do. It doesn’t really matter. I haven’t been up to the studio today to look. Maybe I will be pleasantly surprised ( that would be nice!) but I doubt it. You know when somethings is not right. It’s working out what needs changing that is the hard bit. So it was amazing to find this quote yesterday evening:
“Art is longing. You never arrive but you keep going in the hope that you will.” Anselm Kiefer
Funnily enough, even though I knew it wasn’t going quite as planned I haven’t been frustrated. In fact the moments when it felt most wrong were the times I made most progress. When I sort of shrugged and just went for it: working fast with the colour, mixing directly on the board, making more sweeping brushstrokes. I don’t know all the answers yet, but I’m really enjoying figuring it out.
It’s as if for the first time I have allowed myself to admit that I don’t know where I’m going. Yes, there’s a longing to get it ‘right’, but I don’t have to have all the answers in this one piece. No artist ever does, so where did I get the notion that this on ehas to be my masterpiece. It is one more step and I do have faith that this painting will ‘arrive’. There will be a moment when it is, like Goldilock’s perfect bowl of porridge, “just right”. I just have to hope that I have the presence of mind to recognise it.
And then keep going on another one….