I got interviewed today for a local Facebook ‘cool things in Vegas’ page. I’ll post the interview when it comes out.
On the way over to the Arts Factory, I thought about how I (and a whole lotta other artists) talk about the work. We talk about spirituality, use big words, make vague statements that may or may not mean anything. Here’s an example:
I try to tap into the deepest places in my subconscious mind, to dive in and dredge what I find up and onto the canvas. It is a dance between myself and the canvas, lubricated by pigment and punctuated by the violence of the knife (that’s a line I’ve used a lot). I work very hard to become unconscious when I paint, to let my primitive impusles take over. Ultimately I am not in control of what happens; I’m not present. What you are seeing is very much who I am at my usually hidden core.
I would like to simply start this next paragraph with one word: Horseshit – but that wouldn’t be fair. Truth is some of that mambo jambo is actually true.
Actually, on second reading: Horseshit! It’s pure artist-speak.
Being truthful, here is what I might say:
Painting for me is like meditation. I fall into the canvas – or get in the zone as most people say – and then nothing else exists. Two hours may pass but it feels like ten minutes.
I’m driven by a two-word mantra: what if. What if I tried this here? What if I did this here? What if I choose this color? What would happen if I used this brush?
After a while (and how long a while is varies), the canvas starts to be some thing: an object, a person, a feeling, a pattern . . . some thing. And that’s my signal to quit asking ‘What if?’ and start asking ‘How can I?’ How can I make the theme that has emerged more apparent?
This is the resolution phase – and it’s usually more about subtraction than addition. I try to remove the elements in the painting that are interfering with the theme that has appeared for me. I think it is a mistake to try to enhance what you’re seeing at this phase by adding to it. The best (worst) example would be that a face or figure seems to emerge on the canvas, and you rush over an paint in an eye. No, No. Let the suggestion of a face be enough. Instead, look for elements that interfere with the face and paint them out.
When I finish a painting I take a moment to admire it . . . then I’m done. I dont’ fall in love with my work and clutch it close. I want to sell it so that I don’t have to store it. Selling is always a little bittersweet; you are glad to be sending the piece to a good home but a little sad to see it go.
I do have a couple dozen pieces I’ve done through the years that hang in my home. They are ones I like the most or that represent a moment I want to remember. I add to that select group very rarely.
I paint for the experience of painting. The physical act is entertaining and fulfilling for me in a way that few other endeavors are. While I’m having this experience, I’m not consciously painting for the viewer. I do believe, however, that art that doesn’t find an audience is only half-art. Or Hal Fart. So I try to select a palette before I start that is not jarring or garrish. Sometimes I fail – and sometimes I just say, ‘What the hell, this need some RED!’ and go to town, over-ruling my palette.
The biggest thrill for me – other than the physical act of painting – is seeing people staring at my work, having their own experience. I usually walk up and ask, ‘What do you see?’ And it’s usually a surprise! The viewer sees something different than the artist sees – and that’s great! That’s why I don’t paint a picture of a boy on a boat and call it ‘Boy on a Boat” . . . . Everyone would see a boy on a boat. I’d rather be less concrete in my painting and in my titles so the viewer can participate in creating their own experience.
Unfortunately, most of that didn’t get said during the interview. But neither did the usual magical, mystical mambo jambo get said! And that makes me happy. Painting is not a big mysterious process. It’s a physical activity that take practice, study and more than anything else, curiosity.