Friday, December 10, 2010

Trials, tribulations, and finally success!

I've spent the last few days wrangling with a painting. I tried a reddish brown surface. Not too bad, but not good enough. I tried adding more color. UGH. Start again: painted it over with white paint.

I tried a watery black surface. It looked great on a smaller painting I'd made earlier. But not this time. UGH. I tried getting a bit darker. UGH. Too dark. Start again: another coat of white paint.

I tried a green/black combination. It had also worked on a smaller version. UGH. I tried adding a layer of black and gel medium. UGH. I tried adding a layer of green. UGH. Start again: another coat of white paint.

So I got up this morning and was faced with that white surface again. I'd run dry of ideas. Randomly, my hand reached for a nearby tube of orange/brown paint, and I just squirted it all over the surface and rubbed it in with a brush.

Excellent!! Done!!

I know many other artists make preparatory drawings, sketchbook studies, color swatches, gridded compositions, and many other practices to plan out their intentions for a painting. I CAN'T! Ironically, I am an extremely organized person in all other areas of my life. But when it comes to painting, I have to be spontaneous, or nothing works out.

Painter Rebecca Crowell describes her artistic process, which shares a lot in common with mine, in today's post on her blog. I recommend reading her thoughts, especially if you're one of us "listen to the painting" types.


Rebecca Crowell said...

Catherine, I totally understand this process...and coincidentally was writing something similar on my own blog. I put a link to your post in mine. The painting turned out beautifully, has an old burnished coppery feeling.

Catherine Carter said...

Loved reading your blog post, Rebecca! You've said so much that I feel and experience too. Once I've finished, it feels like a magical process, because I've forgotten all the steps forward and back that got me there!

Thank you for linking my post on your blog. "Burnished copper" sounds beautiful.

Jala Pfaff said...

Great post.
Fascinating that I am that way too--neat and organized pretty much in life, but NOT in the studio. My art needs to be created spontaneously and messily to be any good.

Catherine Carter said...

I think we are the exception, Jala, rather than the norm. Most folks I know go through elaborate preparations. I can't stand to prolong the joy with all those machinations! ;-)

Kelly M. said...

Catherine -- I found your blog via Rebecca Crowell's and totally emphathize. No, you are not alone in the spontaneous method of frenzied creativity! The few times I've tried to plot and plan, I usually ended up wiping it out only to find that I like that even better -- lol!

Catherine Carter said...

I think it's much more FUN working this way, don't you, Kelly? If you already "know" what the work is going to look like, based on your carefully worked out plan, why bother at all? And how is that different from, say, making a grocery list and driving to the store?

Thank you for reading and commenting!

Tamar said...

Although I've occasionally attempted preparatory studies, I've found that they inhibit my process--my paintings evolve in response to each mark that gets put down. I don't really know where I'm heading until a few layers into a painting--and even then, I'm generally caught off guard when I've reached the moment of DONE! But that is such a wonderful moment--you turn around and look and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up! (And of course, there are the times when I was certain a painting was finished, but a couple of weeks later I wonder just what I had been thinking.......)

Catherine Carter said...

Ah, I love that "hairs on the back of your neck" feeling, Tamar! And I doubt that would ever come if I already knew what the painting would look like before I started.