July 12, 2009


A few notes on recent history follows at the jump...

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The structure of this summer's calendar was such that I had short windows to take this painting on. At 108 x 320 centimeters, it wasn't the biggest painting I've ever done, but it;s a big one for Tossa. The first window of time opened and closed in the week before my wife Stephanie arrived. I went in with an idea, a scheme in mind and perhaps my problems started when I decided to sketch it out in watercolors.

After the little sketch, the big painting became a routinized exercise. All the spirit seemed drained, no surprises or unexpected turns. So as my clock ran out, I decided to scrape it off.

A week or two into Stephanie's stay, I had a few days to take the painting on. It was a tight time frame to be sure, but sometimes the best stuff comes that way. I had a pile of paint from the scrape off, and I thought I would knock the mud in and color fill... roll the dice. Try to feel the grace. Come on baby baby baby...


A screed of something lighter, white... nothing.

The whole effort was again scraped off.

I wasn't feeling the mojo.

I was feeling pretty shitty.

The third go: half of the scraped off paint was salvaged, the rest to the trash. A strange yellow-white served to lay a base and then cadmium red in sheets from the bottom to the top. This is a shot along the way, I started to realize that I liked to see that yellow the higher I went up the canvas. I let my knife skip the top as I went.

Options once open, began to close. Keep the field from edge to edge and draw into it light and dark? No. Come down in black/umber and cleave the composition. I have the Robert Hughes' superb biography Goya here with me, such a good book. I was thinking of Goya's skies from a vacant blue to creamy dirtied ochre to pitch black.

Jumping from this post into the near future... I had initially intended to stop with the painting at the state as recorded in the image on the face of this post. Two days elapsed and I wasn't comfortable about the decision. An artist is only as happy as the most recent successful work... and ultimately I wasn't happy... and therefore the work wasn't successful.

I was miserable, trying not to let my friends know.

Thinking about a recent intervention, I took a knife and sliced out the weakest part of the painting. I had to come in with something to lighten up the gravitas of all that red/black, something where in the end I didn't screw it up or look like a schmuck.


Clouds and a face in the clouds. Like Goya's heads with beards and wild manes. But how? I tried to sculpt one in as I smeared pain on with gloved hands. No go. Maybe I could go Guston and whip whap a stubbled cigarette smoking bloodshot eyed head with fat brushstrokes? Nope. I knifed in sky-blue and stood back. And lo, there was something like eyes staring back at me. A head tilted forward, cropped at the nostrils. Three strokes of the knife and that's it. A few swipes of white to relieve and model form.



...what have I done?

Posted by Dennis at July 12, 2009 10:03 AM

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