People often ask me about my work methods, how I get the paint to do certain things. I just smile and admit that I really have no idea. I start off with a plan every time and I try to follow it, but just as Picasso says “then it becomes something else.”
For many years I fought this phenomenon. But it always happened. The thing is, I usually ended up with a painting that I liked, but I was somehow not proud of it. I guess because it had not turned out as I had originally intended. For me that felt like failure. How could I call what I had talent if I was not completely in control of it. But then as time went by and I looked at the body of my work I realized that I had developed a style and more importantly, I loved it. I found my voice. But truthfully I would have never developed my own style if the “something else” hadn’t continued to happen.
I guess making plans in painting and in life is pointless on some level. My life got so much easier as a painter and as a person when I began to embrace the fact that nothing was ever going to go exactly as intended. Don’t get me wrong, to this day I can’t begin a painting if I don’t have a plan in my head. It’s just that now am not troubled if the end result has little to do with that plan. The same is true in life. I think it is a pretty good idea to have a path – set some goals. But the end results will be much more about how you are able to recognize the opportunities that came your way and not overlooking something beautiful just because it was not exactly what you were planning on. That’s where the magic happens.
Think how boring your life would be if you only ever got what you expected. Remember this, any plan that you can make is always going to have limits, but that “something else” could be anything.
Yesterday I heard a middle aged woman talking about how much better life was when she was a child. She kept talking about how she admired a certain politician whose platform was all about trying to make America the way it used to be. And I thought to myself, “I wouldn’t vote for him, he’s wasting his time.”
I remember once my mother saying (in a rather relieved tone of voice) to my grandmother, “I may be past forty, but I am still closer to forty than to fifty.” To which my grandmother replied “You are closer to seventy than you are to forty, because one day you might live to be seventy – but you will never be forty again.” That remark nearly landed my grandmother in the East Tupelo Home for the Aged. But what it lacked in sensitivity it made up for in wisdom.
Moving forward – that’s it. My hand at painting, my perceptions, my inspirations, are constantly changing. Trying to recreate a painting you did in the past is a disappointing process. You always have to work in the moment. I believe that is a life lesson as well. Trying to go back is a frustrating, and frankly useless endeavor.
So things used to be great for you in the past – that’s wonderful, cherish that memory, but move on. If you keep spending all your energy trying to recreate that “painting,” you will just be wasting the time that you should be using to make something new… and quite possibly even better than the original.
There is nothing I love more than walking into my studio when I have a fresh new canvas and all my brushes are clean and arranged neatly in rows on my work table. At least I think I would love that ??? Unfortunately, I have never been what you would call a “tidy” person.
No matter how earnest my intentions, I always manage to make a mess. I cannot cook without using every pan in the kitchen. Gardening leaves me with more soil in my pockets than in the pots. One time, I got dressed up to meet a new client (I looked pretty together for me) then realized I needed a sketch from my studio to take to the meeting. I carefully walked into the studio, touching nothing, avoiding all wet paint, and walked out with my sketch. As I’m driving away from the meeting, feeling like I made a good impression, I look at myself in the rear view mirror and notice that I have phthalo blue paint smeared all over my face (no idea how)! I think it’s just me.
I once had a painter friend who worked in an art studio with me and would show up every morning in a white dress shirt and linen pants. He would roll up his sleeves, put on an apron, and work hard all day beside me. At the end of the day he would take off his apron, roll down his sleeves, and voila – spotless! I, on the other hand, would be paint-stained head to toe – somehow only my apron remaining clean.
When I paint I use anything that I can grab. I use every brush in the place and often times have six or seven palettes covered with paint spread on my work table. People often ask if they can visit my studio and when I say no they think that I am being a mysterious artist. But the truth is… I’m just embarrassed by the mess.
Maybe I will have to become one of those old Southern men (just like my grandfather) who walks around in coveralls all day? I googled “gay coveralls” and the results were disturbing…