Monday, August 22, 2011

Studio daze

After I read, along with poetry, portions of my blog at the Berkshire Museum Thursday evening, I thought these would be fun to repost, as they never appeared consecutively:

Bad studio day

This latest painting is just bad, a mishmash. I was on such a roll, now sent to the depths. I think it’s because I started it before the last one was finished. There was just picky stuff to do, with lots of drying time in-between, so I thought, start another one, why not? Except that for me, good paintings come from wanting to see something realized so badly that I’ll do whatever it takes. To start one too soon is like starting a new love affair before the old one is finished.

Richard, who I went to see to console myself, said—without having seen it—that the problem with this painting is that it’s green. He’s right. How often do you see a good green painting?

Better studio day

I got up this morning and the painting didn’t look so bad, although it was still green.

A friend, a personal trainer by profession, wanted to know what it meant to have a “bad studio day” and I found it hard to explain, which got me wondering if there’s any other field where you can so often feel as if you’ve never done this thing before. I asked Scott, who's both an artist and chef, if he’s ever experienced it in the kitchen, and he said, “No.” Do trial lawyers ever suddenly feel as if they’ve never been in a courtroom? I doubt it. Roberto describes it as one of those moments when he begins to wonder, “How did I get this job, anyway?”

So there you are and you know nothing. And even though other artists are aware of how profoundly depressing it is, they’ll gleefully tell you—and you’ll tell everyone else as long as you’re not going through it—that it’s an exciting place to be and means your art isn’t stagnant, but growing and developing. Thanks a bunch.

So Richard came over and declared the painting “a good beginning” and pointed out where it “needs work”—i.e. most of it—although, of course, he couldn’t be specific as to what that work would look like. He described painting as “an accumulation of accidents,” and suggested that whether they turn out to be happy ones or not is sometimes just a matter of luck. I still think it's all about degree of interest, of how invested I am in seeing the final image, but now that it's become a challenge, I'm getting more interested.

Not so bad studio day

The painting is slowly, painfully, improving, but it’s still GREEN—even though I’ve spent all day adding lots of other colors to it. That’s because green swallows every color that touches it. Painters, take a look at your once-white bristle brushes. Have you ever noticed that they’re all GREEN? If they aren’t, it’s only because you were smart enough never to use green in the first place.

Ridiculous studio day

I couldn’t stand the green, so I stained everything alizarin yellow . Now there’s a color you really can’t get rid of. I must be out of my mind. And what am I doing with a giant tube of alizarin yellow anyway? Did I buy this thing? It’s like having a bomb in the bottom of my paint drawer.

Grey studio day

I don’t know if it’s a talent, like perfect pitch, or an acquired skill, but I can easily mix any color I need—except grey, which is the color I’ve wanted this painting to be all along. "That’s because," Ann said this afternoon, "there’s no such thing as grey; there’s only green, blue or violet." Now she tells me! Is this one of those things, like Santa Claus and snipe hunts, that everyone else found out about in second grade, and no one clued me in on? Obviously all those labels on paint are just a joke, and when someone comes into, say, Pearl Paint and actually purchases a tube of Holbein Grey of Grey, the salespeople are cracking up behind the cash registers. Well I’m nothing if not determined, so I looked up “mixing grey oil” on Google, and up came a bunch of sites that are obviously perpetuating the myth. But I fooled them! I took all of the colors mentioned on all of the sites and mixed them together and got...GREEN.

Tough love studio day

Have I been whining a lot? I guess so, because today Roberto came over and said he didn’t think my painting was as bad as he'd expected. He said the color was good, that the alizarin yellow turned out to be great as underpainting—but that I’m painting what I want to see rather than what’s really there. His exact words were, “It’s naïve, but not in a good way.” Only a true friend would say that. Of course, I knew he was right; I was just hoping that I could fool him the way I was trying to fool myself into thinking this painting was Gerhard Richter-esque when it’s really more like Maurice Sendak, minus the Wild Things.

I’d hoped for a happy ending—I was committed to the idea that a painting blog should be inspirational—but instead I’m going to take Roberto’s advice, retire this thing for a while and start another. And this time I’ll try not to be so histrionic about it.

Meanwhile there’s Jeanette and Erica’s wedding and an article to write for Art in America on Marisol The great thing about having two vocations is that it makes for very productive procrastination: I do some of my best painting when I’m supposed to be writing and, conversely, having a deadline gives me a great excuse not to paint.

Satisfied studio day

I've been working on my GREEN painting for an hour or so this morning--after months, it's almost finished--and I love it so much I can't stop looking at it. I was about to write, "Isn't life weird?" until I remembered my old boy friend, Claude, saying, "Compared with what?"

Carol Diehl, Isla de Encanta II, 2007, oil on panel, 17" x 25"

1 comment:

Bea Modisett said...

I like inspirational painting blogs, but I really like the ones that make me feel I'm not alone. Thank you for the post - it was one I needed as I have been struggling with my current work. I'll just keep working and look forward to that wonderful feeling when you realize the painting really isn't THAT bad.