I can't seem to leave these paintings alone. As I look at them scattered around the studio, I begin to yawn over my technique. I kept trying to develop something different, but no matter what I did it turned out to be me. I decided I had nothing to lose, so went back at them with tremendous bravery. I simply can not keep doing the same thing over and over. I am so sick of myself.
This paintings were already a little adventurous for me, but I wanted more. I blurred the edges, disguised the details, used the paint differently. I wanted them to be paintings rather than a slightly skewed version of a photograph. The first thought I had was to eliminate background, at least in the case of all the dancers....or I should say representational background. Beyond that I tried to keep the figures sloppy without detail. I fought the whole way, resisting my usual attempts to fuss over and cajole the images into static individuals. I succeeded somewhat, but was still not happy. Yesterday I took the offending paintings off the wall and set to work destroying what I had done. Right now I feel pretty good about them. At least they are not quite my usual self....though you could say they are still me, but in disguise. There is no way to hide, but I have to believe in change...conscious change. Every painter changes somewhat over the years as a natural outgrowth of experience. Everyone tries to make themselves better at what they do. I don't want to keep improving what I already do. I'd like to make the principles I have always believed about painting more obvious in my work. I've preached process, evidence of medium and composition. I've always insisted that subject matter ought to be nearly irrelevant....that a painting should not "call on predictable, automatic responses to the subject." I read that in a book called "Living by Fiction." I'm pretty sure it was written by Annie Dilliard. She was talking about writing, but the same applies to visual art. You shouldn't depend on the subject to carry your painting.
How I have spoken into a void.....my students always chose their subjects with great care. They wanted to "capture" what they were looking at.....no matter that I pointed out that nature is itself, so much bigger and grander than their 16x20 canvases, can't be caught...........that what they were making was another thing entirely, a rectangle with paint on it.
Well, I am trying to follow my own teaching.
The last painting of the horses came to me as I was removing the huge painting I had done of horses stampeding on 24 canvases that fit together. As I looked at each square, I was struck by how they looked by themselves. I took this image from one of them. The jury is still out on this idea. The color is odd, for one reason. I had used up all of my red paint and was finishing up what was left on my palette, mostly yellow and blue and white. Now that I have used up my oil paint, I'll have to switch to a different medium.