I LOVE painting realistically. When a canvas is finished, it doesn’t seem possible that taking one portion or stroke at a time would such results. I have a strange disconnect as I look at the painting, amazed that I was the one who did it. The process is tedious, step by step. Three fourths of the way, I want it to be done. That is a good thing, for it makes me leave certain areas loose and more impressionistic. Then the project reaches the state where more strokes won’t improve the work anymore, and I call it done.
This past summer I wanted to learn and improve more quickly than a detailed painting allows. Realism projects hold few surprises. I choose the subject. The subject pretty much determines the colors I use, and it’s a matter of sketching, mixing colors, and painting in the shapes and lines where they belong. When I enter the studio, I know exactly what I will be doing for the next few hours. It’s very cerebral and often feels like tedium more than pleasure.
This summer I switched to acrylics and abstracts, to speed up, color up, and loosen up. An artist friend put me onto some abstract painters, and I entered their world, at least for a season. I was shocked and thrilled at what I found.
Now, when I go into the studio, I wonder what will come out of my brushes, pencils, and markers. I never know. It’s always a delightful surprise. I marvel at the results, asking, “Where did THAT come from?” I meditate on what I just did, ask, “Why this?”, and I learn more about myself and my art with each painting. I LOVE the whole process. Its challenges, its ugly parts, its messiness, emerging beauty, the many happy accidents, the beginning
mindlessness, and childlike handling of my tools.
I paint until I am pleased enough to say it’s done. With abstracts, one can stop anywhere along the way and call it done, but something tells me I need to paint on, add more layers, and marks to create richness, interest, and depth.
I’ve come to know that if drawing and painting is not enjoyable, surprising, intuitive, accidental, and spontaneous, and full of the unexpected, there is something missing, and I find my studio doesn’t call to me as much to come and paint.
I think all of life should have the quality of exploration, discovery, and experimentation in it to be enjoyable and joyful. That’s what young children have because they are discovering and learning new things every day. Abstract art offers that experience in full-blown measure.