New studio prep
October 2014, Royal College of Art, London
In the process of documenting this piece, i’ve thought a bit how i want to describe its undertaking. A phrase, it’s the hardest thing i’ve ever done, has come to mind, but that wouldn’t be the truth. I’ve done much harder things all of which aren’t really appropriate to talk about on this blog. What i can write is that this piece has given me the confidence to keep pursuing this crazy art making thing.
Without question, this is the largest piece i’ve ever tackled. It’s also taken me the longest by far. So long that it’s actually surreal to think that it started from plain grey linen. I was going to go into a long post describing the how exactly i created this monster. But i’ll save that for another day, if ever really since i’m not sure how much you or i would learn from that. What i will write is that i have have gotten more satisfaction out observing friends and family look at and become attached to the scene in Should i get you another beer?. Even when it was far from finished, they fiercely connected with and defended the interactions that they each saw in the piece.
‘I think this is going on…’
And so on…
It’s those honest to goodness interactions between real people (vs the seemingly silent 2-D people in my work) that i seek. With interactions in mind, i want to thank the friends i made up in Groningen (you know who you are!) who welcomed me into their lives and their homes last February. I would be a very different person had that visit gone differently—or at the very least wouldn’t be applying to grad school with confidence.
Thank you all for that. And to my Mom. For once it’s not all your fault. Just some of it lies at your feet this time.
So without further ado, except to write, click to make it bigger:
My friends out there know i am working on this big-assed (it’s a technical term—look it up) painting. It’s the largest piece i’ve ever tackled, and only the second in oil in a long while. While it’s been a joy in many ways, but the sheer size of the piece and the practicalities of working in oil have been…shall i say interesting? I’ve worked on it in fits and starts, and i have to admit that the possibly of screwing up has been a real hindrance. The dry media that i’ve principally been working with the past few years is much more forgiving to mistakes and can be reworked or completely redrawn quickly. I know paint can be painted over, the drying time is frustrating and in many sections i’m trying to preserve the natural color of the linen beneath.
I’ve worked most of the 14 and half foot canvas, but i’ve been dutifully avoiding fully developing certain aspects of the scene knowing that they require my best drawing abilities. All in the center of the canvas, but mentally shoved in the corner. I had set a goal of completing the piece (a stage 1, kind of complete at least) by the end of summer. (The season’s end not the school year’s beginning!) Well, with September well underway it’s long past time stop avoiding and to attack.
To-do list in hand, after much fussing, (obsessively scraping old paint of my pallet, oh Schama’s Power of Art: Rothko on youtube!, i’m hungry, music or audiobook or music or audiobook or music or audiobook…) i finally just jumped in and knocked purple shirt’s head out. I was uncertain how if felt about the result, but snapped a pic after and called it a night. The next morning i returned to my studio and while i knew the section would require further work, i exclaimed “It doesn’t suck!”.
It’s moments like that keep me working.
And once again, the moral of the story is to just step up and face your fears and just get working.
Goddamnit. There goes that excuse.
Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?
The only piece of advice that continues to help:
Is anyone that’s making anything new only breaks something else.
There is a connection between progress of a society and progress in the Arts. The age of Pericles was also the age of Phidias. The age of Lorenzo de Medici was also the age of Leonardo Da Vinci. The age of Elizabeth was the age of Shakespeare.
Toby in “Gone Quiet” on The West Wing
Artist in his studio
Remabrandt, c. 1969, 9.8 by 12.6 inches, MFA Boston
One of my all time favorites. A perfect representation of the intimate art making process.
An artist’s job is to captivate you for however long as we’ve asked for your attention. If we stumble into truth, we got lucky, and I don’t get to decide what truth is…I write poetry, Toby. That’s how I enter the world.
Tabitha Fortis in “The U.S. Poet Laureate” on The West Wing
I whole heartedly agree with the first sentence. I just ask, if artists can’t decide what truth is who can? Can anyone?
Life is short,