Saturday, January 02, 2010
Thom and I are gong to have an exhibit at the Rose Garden in May where he shows his photographs and I show my paintings of them. This is my first shot..........a photo he took in Hawaii. After I sketched it on the canvas (which is much bigger than the photo) I took the first picture. I don't do a line drawing to start, just a value study, more or less. That's the biggest and most important chore of a painting..........to orgainize the patterns the lights and darks are going to make. I always consider the abstraction of the painting to be the bones of it. Whatever you put on top of the bones will turn the abstract into strokes that remind the viewer of something they recognize. The problem is how much to organize the strokes and values. How much the viewer should be considered is always a challenge. How much do I manipulate what my brushstrokes make the person who looks at them think of? How far do I remove my process from my audience? So often it is pushed into the background so far that all that is left is the subject of the painting, say a sunset, seen through the filter of all the sunsets the viewer has ever experienced or imagined. Most people judge a painting by how little it looks like paint and how close it comes to looking like what it represents.
Well, anyway, once I have all the shapes and values making a design that I like, I start to dress it up. As I used to tell my students, "now all I have to do is paint the painting." Thom has snatched a split second that will never happen again. It's why I like to paint from photgraphs.........especially if somebody else took them. That one second is recorded. Once the second has passed, it no longer exists. Thom owns it. He grabbed it out of a second that surrounded him and no matter how many other cameras recorded that moment, none will be like his. Then, he offers his singular version of that moment to me. I interpret it from a completely different point of view. I look at the scene with edges that confine it to a rectangle of a size determined by Thom. I see feet without people attached to them, faces without heads around them, hands anchored to the edge of a piece of paper, a knee that lives between two other knees, flat and still. I am painting those shapes, removed far from Hawaii and those humans who happened to be in front of Thom's camera lens. What a trip!
No wonder reality is too hard a concept to grasp.