Pushing It

"Plane Dealing"
watercolor 22 x 30 inches

Painting is much, much more than making 'pretty pictures.'   Painting is way more than making smudges of color with paint.   In fact, painting has been called 'an Art' for centuries because so few people ever muster enough skill to be able to deliver masterly paintings without breaking a sweat (or, it seems so!).

Two years ago, I began a series of abstract paintings using flat planes as the 'subject.'   I cannot express the breadth of knowledge I have gained by doing so.   What I discovered several years back was that no matter the subject, the painter must deliver a strong composition in order to attract and hold a viewer's attention.   It must go well beyond the "Oh!  I recognize that _______(thing, place, person)"   It must have that mysterious arrangement that draws the viewer into its woven web of shapes, colors, textures etc. and fascinates them.    

This task becomes increasingly more difficult the larger the piece becomes.   Why?   Because those spaces in the picture plane, where there doesn't seem to be much happening, must be entertaining while they support the main attraction of the painting.   Those seemingly non consequential areas must be attractive in their own right, but must not steal attention from what the artist is trying to say.   To see what I mean, click on the image and look at the corners of the painting.   There you will witness variation in color and texture.   You will also see subtle shifts of value so that the lighter values appear to be emerging from those corners . . . . not pasted on them.

Gradually, as I worked this piece, layer over layer over layer, the character of the painting shifted back and forth until it reached a point where it became difficult to decide what to do next and to have every part of the painting feel as part of a family of wildly different elements.  That sounds like a mouth full.   There has to be relatedness, contrast, harmony, and, above all, unity.   That is everything must seem as though it belongs in the painting.

To make such a complex painting, such as the one above, the painter must come to a place where every mark is made with near abandon and courage to push ahead.   The painter who worries about ruining a work before it is complete is the painter who will never achieve the extraordinary.   In other words, If you don't make mistakes, you aren't reaching far enough.

No person who cares about the quality of their work wants to endure the disappointment of clobbering a painting into the waste bin.   That same person, though, must be willing to slow waaaay down and creep slowly toward the conclusion while carefully assessing every stroke and mark and how it will relate with the rest of the painting.   Obviously, the artist is flirting with disaster, or pushing his or her luck, in that process.   What did the artist have to lose if failure reared its head?   Truthfully, only that he or she would have grown a few days or weeks older . . . . . .which would have happened even if he or she wasn't in the act of making art.  

Are you pushing it?