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The Anatomy of a Painting

I always screw it up before I finish it. Its not that I mean to. I’d love to make perfect art right from the start but it happens. Inevitably. Every. Time. I start by laying down some color, the background. Its okay if the background isn’t good because it will change. Its just the first step. I work from pictures and references to start. I always think I know the direction I want things to go at this point.

This painting started as a land and sky. Abstracted. I was originally working from photos taken from the window of our car on a family trip out west. This was Wyoming. Or a mashup perhaps, of the way I remembered Wyoming.

It was moving in that direction, until I started to detail it 2 days later. On this day I got my brand new tube of Prussian blue. And I was inspired. So instead of listening to the direction the painting wanted me to go, I veered off course. For two days I applied and scraped and all but destroyed the lovely little underpaintings I started because I became distracted by the process of painting. The sound of palette knife on wood. The pigment of a new deep blue paint. I ruined the work.

Yep… This is the same painting. What started as a simple abstract landscape was somehow morphed into a very impressionistic sea and sky. And, for as much fun as I had playing in the media, I loathed it. I loathed myself as an artist. There comes a point in every painting that I have to contemplate why I even do this. This usually strikes right around the time I have ruined a piece by overworking it to death. As was the case with this work.

But, since I know this has become a part of my process. I know that now is when I really must get to work. As a painter and as a person, I am a fixer. It seems I have to put in the energy redeeming something before I know it is done. I can’t minimize the importance of making bad art, because in the most fundamental way I believe myself to be a mender, a redeemer. I do not know a path to something meaningful that is an easy one. I do not feel that I can make confident beautiful marks from the start. But I do know how to fix the ones I have failed at. So only after I have ruined it, do I find myself being able to finish it. I hope you like this new piece. There are several layers of paint (and emotion) beneath it.

"Inside the Light", 18x18, oil on wood.

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