When asked about my studio practice, I often speak about how I enter into a conversation with the painting. I talk about the discovery that is inherent in the process. When I am painting an abstraction I embark with vague notions but often no clear destination.
Working in this way, without a net (if you will) requires a radical trust in the process.
There is something wonderful in allowing yourself to hold nothing back as you seek a painting. Many times this manner of working is exhilarating and uplifting.
At other times I am utterly frustrated by all of it.
I thought I’d show you the development of this painting, to illustrate what I am talking about. This happens to be one of those painful processes. I took pictures of some of the stages as I went along. While all studio sessions are not recorded, you can witness how I responded to the painting in development, adding and subtracting color, marks and forms.
As you can see above, this painting began with an underpainting in shades of gray. I started by mixing a chromatic gray, combining primary colors with white to obtain rich tonal colors to serve as a basic understructure for the colored glazes of oil paint.
At the beginning, there are only washes and marks, yet I was full of energy, interested and positive about what would emerge.
In the third image you can see that I started to introduce yellow and ochre as the first colors. In later sessions I added more color.
(The fourth image does not represent the next studio session. There are missing stages between the third and fourth image.)
This 30 x 30” painting, which developed over months was slow going. I floundered a while. My energy sagged. I became frustrated at times. On more than one occasion I considered just coating the entire canvas in solid black or some solid whitewash, to begin again.
As you can see here I covered much of it in red, and below you see I at some later point I covered much of it in green.
Not shown above is another stage where I painted red in again.
I was so frustrated I put the painting aside many times and worked on other paintings. Always keeping this in my peripheral vision, sometimes I would turn from the new painting and work on this one a while.
Often the changes made were so small they were hardly noticeable.
Even though I did not take a picture after every session where I painted on this canvas, you can see where I removed areas and then (quite unconsciously!) painted them back in.
As the work continued, there were blues and red-manganese, and orange!
And finally, one day I turned away from a different painting and in a spurt of energy painted the final strokes, adding the color that pulled the entire piece together.
I moved the painting into a room that I live in, so that I would look at it from time to time, as a spectator, an innocent bystander, to see if it resonated.
It has been a few months now. I have accepted it as complete.
Funny, I see an oasis here, a place of peace.
Ain’t that like life?