Threshold Moments in Painting; when a painting reaches 'pubescence'!.
There are certain 'thresholds' or 'rites of passage' that I walk through with most of my paintings, and it matters not if they are large or small works. I'm quite certain this relates to any creative endeavor, and I think I love painting due to the very measurable process and experience that entails a beginning, middle and an end for the most part, as well offers a pretty high degree of reward at the outcome which helps motivate me to move onto the next one.
While there are larger decisional parameters of painting for me, keep in mind that within each one of these categories contains its own world of creative problem solving delights. The variables within the process are infinite and these are never static or linear and can arise over and over again as the painting unfolds. Of course, this is how it makes sense for me this week - stay tuned, as this explana-story may take a complete U-turn in the weeks following!
1) Form & Structure
2) Breathing Life Into the Painting
3) Getting out of the way to allow the painting to speak
While it makes most sense to "...start at the beginning, a very good place to start..." (ha!) alternatively, I'm going to jump into the middle of the story, as this seems to be where my process and focus has led me this week, both at the easel and off! (more about that later.) I'm talking about 3/4 of the way into the painting, somewhere in that "Breathing Life Into the Painting Phase". I will describe it as a kind of meeting the 'pubescent painting' threshold.
(Images are from a Winter Pine oil painting I'm working on 15x30" /38cm x 76cm currently in it's pre-pubescent phase :-))
Imagine you are coming up towards a narrow doorway and simultaneously, like looking in a mirror that's a bit foggy, you see approaching towards you a vague figure, one who is also walking towards the doorway with a similar determination and demeanor coming from the opposite direction. You are strangers, at least at this point, and yet you feel a familiarity, a connection, a recognition, sometimes a possible attraction and sometimes repulsion. Perhaps you have met before but you're not quite sure. You don't necessarily want to make direct eye contact, no, as that would reveal too much of yourself, and besides, you are busy, your mind needs to stay focused on other things that are BEYOND the doorway, BEYOND the threshold. So you use your peripheral vision and take in the rest of the scenery, you address issues in other areas as you distract yourself slightly, but you know the doorway is coming nearer, and you can't avoid it. This is not a time to cultivate relationship, you've been working hard and you want and need to move on, you want to experience the reward that you imagine is on the other side of the doorway BEYOND the threshold and BEYOND this greeting. So, you attempt to ignore this entity and push forward, but guess what?, you are not going to be moving forward just yet, you are not getting BEYOND to the other side until you greet this entity, this 'pubescent painting', who has also arrived to greet you at the same threshold, at the same same portal.
This is the meeting that takes place before the painting can gain it's independence and maturity. It's a meeting of hearts and minds, where you both walk through the portal, both simultaneously and in opposite directions. But often, it's the sticking point, and neither of you are going anywhere, nope, not until the struggle is resolved, at least to a certain degree. You have to be open to compromise, exploration and experimentation. You also need to address the issues based on the shared values from the past that have been tried and true. (This is a time to reflect backwards a bit and address the structure and form that are the basic bones, are you truly all in place to move onward?) This is a time to ask if the rules can bend?, what risks must be taken in order for you both to get your needs met and move beyond and arrive on the other side?
You see elements of yourself in the painting and you want to maintain control, however the painting is starting to vocalize and strengthen it's own voice and vision and before moving onward, you, as the creator have to learn to let go and give the 'pubescent' painting a chance to grow on it's own. You can always look back through the doorway and offer suggestions, but it's time to let the painting stand on its own.
I go through this with every painting, large or small. It's sometimes a break point to go and grab a cup of coffee, walk the dog, do other work, before arriving back at the easel. With some paintings it's a few minutes, with others it's a few days, and I have some that have been sitting for over a year. There are plenty of paintings where the conversation doesn't end so smoothly and the painting is botched! But more often than not, if I am patient with myself and patient with the painting, I will then arrive back fresh, to continue the conversation, and together with the painting, we can come to agreements and based on our mutual admiration, respect and love for one another, we can both move on! Remember I said I'd come back to the away from the easel portion of this topic? - Well, LO and BEHOLD, surprise! I am also moving through this same process with my children who are also both large and small, and with both anguish, joy and pain - we move onward and let go with love.
To be continued... next time I'll take more photos of the sometimes troublesome 'pubescent stage'! For now, I'll leave you with my few rewards from this past week. Loved painting these smaller works and exploring the gouache paints. These are painted on sample Japanese handmade paper for watercolor that I purchased at the Art Store in Portland Artist and Craftsman Supplies Store in Portland. I love the watercolor paper and will definitely buy some more! In future posts, I might be able to address the 'how's' to move through this phase of a painting and share some of the ways that I troubleshoot. It's just my way or working based on my own experience.
1) Yellow House in winter sun 5x7"
2) Bath Bones 5x7"
3) Birch n' Blue 5x7"
Thank you so much for reading! If you have questions or comments, I'd love to hear from you and with any luck, I will figure out how to respond as I continue learning about this process of blogging and sharing my practice. :-). Thanks!