Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Fine art needs time to ripen

I like the new painting I made last Saturday so much (shown left), that I've spent a lot of time just sitting and looking at it since then. (Which is a good sign, that a painting continues to interest you and inform you as time goes on.)

This piece encompasses exactly what I want to say as an artist, and it solves a lot of interpretive and technical problems that I've been dealing with since last year. (Such as, how to combine color and value in a way that allows various under-layers to show through in certain random spots? What is the best format for suggesting that the space moves on and that the lines are in constant motion and reconfiguration, tangling and untangling? Etc.)

As I was looking at it yesterday, a memory of an older painting popped into my head. I made "Snarl" (below) in 2005, using acrylic and spray paint on canvas. I realized when I thought of it yesterday that it shares its size (30 inches square), format, color scheme, basic composition and thematic references with Saturday's painting.

Much as I like "Snarl," though, I think the new work represents an advancement. The colors are more refined, the lines are freer and more expressive, and there is greater evidence of a personal voice. I see by comparing the two how many hours I've spent learning to use color, learning to apply and layer paint, and learning how to make my work say what I want to say. It's taken every minute I've spent in the studio over those six years to accomplish this.

As someone who is VERY impatient and wants everything NOW (I can barely stand to wait for my quick-drying acrylics to dry!), I'm recognizing as I'm getting older how long it takes to really learn how to paint, to really come to terms with what you want to say as an artist and to figure out how to say it. Like fine wine, a painter's technical ability and her understanding of herself must slowly develop over time. Years, decades, of work.

It's taken me 48 years to understand that time passing is a good thing. Our culture teaches us that youth is king, that aging is something to be feared, concealed and denied. But I'm discovering that getting older is a privilege. With age comes wisdom and understanding. One's age represents all the experiences it's taken to get you where you are.

And I admit, I can't help thinking, "If I've come this far in six years, think where I'll be in six more years!!"


CMC said...

good post, Catherine......

Catherine Carter said...

Thank you, Cheryl. This one's directly from the heart!

Nancy Natale said...

I like this post, Catherine. It's all so true. That's something they never tell you in art school that it may take 500 paintings before you begin to understand what the hell you're doing and why you're doing it.

Catherine Carter said...

Thank you, Nancy. I agree with you. I think there's a sort of unspoken rule in the art world that success is based on how quickly you can come up with a "style" (preferably in your 20s). But the real learning and understanding comes after the years of experience have accumulated, and not before.