I was asked recently what goes through my mind as I work on a painting. If the working environment is conducive to the task, the elements of working a painting seamlessly usually come together without great effort. For me, there is always a tug of war with the natural flow of where the painting seems to magically appear or when it seems to fight back. The fight back experience makes the finished product sweeter. We artists like to call this the learning curve. For me the learning is ongoing and is intensified with the unusual struggle that sometimes makes the successfully completed painting even more rewarding.
But what is going through my mind? Why do I put myself through this arduous experience … why was I not a potter or maybe a blacksmith?
The important elements that I want to be present at each creation are the basic factors that make a painting “work”. These are the times to step back, sip some tea and review the basic elements of a good painting. Are they here in this painting, I ask, and do they work together to tell the story that was intended? One last filter that helps me review the nearly finished painting include a check of three painting elements: simplify, intensify, and unify.
Recent works still challenge that process. I love dunes and paint a lot of them. Once in awhile a painting of these fine physical gifts of nature rises above (pun intended) other painterly expressions. Strait Ahead, was finished a few days ago, completed in two long sessions. It began simply – a horizon meeting a summer sky. But then the work began to intensify its surroundings. Using the pallet knife, brushes, fingers, I felt exuberant with the motions. Finally I knew I had to unify the elements before me – clouds, grasses, sand path. Three simple measures led me to a comforting satisfaction.
As Joseph Campbell said,
Following your ‘bliss’, As much as you can, do what you love. (The Art of Fine Art).