Monday, August 13, 2007

It was beautiful, I swear

Have you ever had this experience in the studio? (If you work in acrylic, I bet you have.)

A painting is still wet, but you KNOW, as you lift the brush one last time from the surface, that you have CHANGED ART HISTORY. You know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this is the most gorgeous painting that has ever been made.

You leave your masterpiece to dry and exit the studio with a light heart, convinced that your place in the annals of art history is assured. One look at this work, and the curator at the Whitney will rearrange their schedule so that you can be granted a solo show next month. Critics will swoon, too dazzled to verbalize their admiration. Celebrity collectors will fight over who will get to buy it first.

BUT when you return to the studio and the work has dried, THE JIG IS UP. Without that glistening translucent surface, the magic is GONE. The painting just looks like a piece of canvas stretched over four wooden bars with some paint dragged over it.

Sigh. This happened to me today. The muddy splotch at the top of this blog entry was GORGEOUS when it was wet! It was a deep sea of golden lines swirling among soft pools of maroon. It glowed. It demanded to be admired for its elegant colors and undulating marks.

I know, I know. Just keep going. Add more layers of gel medium to reactivate the surface. Blah, blah, blah, I know all the technical tricks to revive a painting. But I want it back the way it was, when it was glowing and fresh and alive!

I relate this story, not to inspire your pity or seem self-effacing. It's just a good reminder that we can never take "successful" work for granted. We have to keep pressing on and trying new things in the studio. Whenever our work becomes formulaic, we must abandon the technique that got us there, or at least alter it so that the path becomes unknown and challenging again.

I THOUGHT the making of this painting was too easy, and it was. This piece has more in store for me to learn, and I have to follow it and see where it takes me.


CMC said...

Yes, I sure do know...I work in acrylic, too. So many masterpieces at night are dead as a doornail in the morning light.

Catherine Carter said...

Hi, Cheryl -- It's a relief to hear that I'm not alone in this experience! I know oil and watercolor change to some degree as they dry, but the surfaces of acrylic works really can DIE, can't they?