Thursday, June 10, 2010

Painting

I haven't felt like painting lately. Not just lately, but for almost an entire year now I've only really felt like painting a few times. It's kind of sad. Maybe I have a distaste for goals that seem achievable. Something about painting lately has seemed too predictable. I keep vacillating over whether or not the problem is too much freedom or too much constraint on behalf of the classroom environment. Or maybe it's the fact that I've progressed from the classroom to the studio. I do tend to feel the need for people to be around when I paint. I don't pay them much attention, but there's something supremely isolating about going into a painting. To preempt mental/spiritual isolation with total physical isolation may be too devastating.
I do prefer painting with music. It does relieve some of the isolation... So maybe my slump is just due to having an unreliable mp3 player, or not the right choice of music when I do get to it.
Perhaps it's the overall effect of the slump. But even inspiration doesn't seem to motivate me properly. Back to the predictable point: I see things in terms of paint. I was looking at a classmates eco-water bottle (or whatever you call those reformulated metal canteens with the screw off cap with a plastic loop at the top that have become so popular lately) today. It was a muted green, kind of an "army" color. I was struck by the reflection of light off of the surface. The base color was rather flat. I could begin with a wash. Scrape away the surface to make room for highlights. Paint in darker areas while the surface was still wet. I could use some of the canister color to soften the whites. The reflections on the bottle were already broken down into distinct shapes. I could mix those colors in a heartbeat. Some ultramarine, some cadmium yellow, a bit of permanent green to get the hue up. A bit of cadmium red (or maybe alizarin) to mellow it out again. And white as necessary to pale it. And there. Done. Painting finished in the span of a few moments for none but me to observe. Of course were I to actually paint it I would need to first prime a surface (if not stretch the canvas), and wait for it to dry. And I would sketch an under-painting in raw sienna and burnt umber, to keep track of the lightest and darkest areas, and furthermore emphasize the depth of contrast when the final layers were overlaid. And then I'd wait for that to dry. And then I'd lay out my palette, and my brushes, and my rags, and set up my canvas on the easel, and I'd adjust my seat, and my benches and my easel, and... and...I'D FINISHED THE PAINTING AN HOUR AGO BEFORE I'D STARTED!
If I can picture it in my head, I can make it! It's not a matter of skill, it's a matter of persistence. Perhaps there's skill in knowing what to change or the progress made with each successive change, but that's what practice is for. In the end I am just moving pieces around until the image in front of me looks like the one in my head. Perhaps it's the skill of holding a complex image in my head? Then perhaps that's my flaw. Because if the image can be fully realized in my head what use do I have of painting it? There's no challenge, no interest, just the slow tedium of correcting and refining.
Who am I painting for? It seems like a purely selfish endeavor from the way I've described it. But it wasn't always. I wanted to present a world which my viewer had never seen. A world which they had looked at everyday, but never seen. The most simplest of objects have mysteries that the average person rarely ever minds. I wished to present the everyday in its full spectacle. But now... it seems as if I dread this construction. Is it a lack of appreciation? I don't think so. I wasn't particularly used to my work be lauded (At least not at this school). And it's not that I have become bored with my subject matter. But the effort of painting it does not seem worth it when I have attuned myself so much to the feeling of painting even before production. Has the mystery has lost its intrigue? No. Not the glass itself. But perhaps paint. The problems in glass can change with a tilt of the head. But my methods of representation have become regimented. I know too well what I am doing before I start. I can approach every problem in the same way. So while even though the exploration takes me to new places, I'm tiring of hacking my way through the jungle with a machete. The solution then, just may be to change methods or subject.
At the moment it is very tempting to just drop it all and pursue a side project (book art, paper, comics, etc). Though I dabble in these things and wish to pursue them to a greater extent. None of these have ever struck me as the same level of importance as paint. Perhaps that's just my traditionalist artist sensibilities...More on that later. If I feel like it... Bye.

2 comments:

Shannon said...

<3

Nshah42 said...

Wow, for all the years I've watched you paint, seen your works, and even talked to you about paintings, I have not once heard the processes you undergo as you approach your subject.

That in itself is a beautiful act and I really thank you for sharing it.

But don't be a bum and keep painting! How else am I gonna decorate my walls in my new hostel room? XD (on a related note, is there a way to transport paintings safely internationally? ya know, without spending crazily?)

But really, you know I love your work :) So don't get dishearted- though your later post on glass painting sounds like an amazing medium as well. Produce what you feel most attuned to, but don't stop producing if can still find ways to :)