"The true painter strives to paint what can only be seen through his world." ~André Malraux

After a year of intermittant "painter's block"  I am working again in my studio, and feeling in a tentative positive state. Painting is a solitary activity, and as artists, we are often working in a vacuum. Unless we have a show hanging, reaction to the work is minimal. With several pieces underway, I decided that perhaps if I write about what I am doing or am attempting to do, it might act somewhat as a muse for me as well as give me some feedback on the work I am creating -- hence the establishment of this blog. 

As for the blog title, traditional, representational painting is a language for expressing what’s visible. But I feel my work is the most successful, and most interesting, when focused on things not entirely visible. I paint what I see but also what I sense and feel by utilizing my interior and unseen world --- in other words, the invisible world. Plein air work or  studio work from photographs are only touchstones or landmarks which guide me to other inner spaces. By so doing, I find that I am pushing the boundaries between representational and abstract work.

You can enlarge the images in this blog by clicking on them.

Feb 4, 2011

"Fail Better"

"Every creator painfully experiences the chasm between his inner vision and its ultimate expression. ~Isaac Bashevis Singer 
This week, during the snowy hiatus, we cocooned in comfort in our wonderful newish bed (hooray Tempurpedic Cloud mattress, it has changed my life!) With no reason to get up on the stormy mornings, we found ourselves sleeping late and staying in bed when awake: John doing crossword puzzles and me reading Tuscan guide books, and aloud, Donald Hall prose about winter in New Hampshire and Billy Collins poetry, as we slug-abedded. Fluffy snow, the sparkly, powdery kind, blanketed our visible environment, spinning total white outs some days, and brilliant sunlit vistas on others. The birds rose long before we, busy at the feeders squabbling and gobbling their weight in seed, and the dogs always get up early, but snuggle back to bed to snore gently, on the cold, stormy mornings. Their eyes cock open and often they erupt into simultaneous loud discontent when the snow plows rumble by. 

During the stormy days, I remained serene in the knowledge that the fridge and freezer were full, that the electricity and oil heat would continue to pulse and keep the house warm and lit, and the generator would kick in if it didn’t. John was busy at the hobby he got into when moving here 13 years ago—snow removal! Weather that forces me to stay inside makes me happy and just reinforces that solitude is my element. I think I am most myself when alone, and when creating something – my artwork, my writing, even the computer gift photo and recipe books I do. Does this make any sense?

The snow is so beautiful against the bright winter sky, and the stark armature of the bare birch and popple trees.  I love to see the changing colors on the hills play over the snow as the sun sets--- it picks out one hill, and then another:  they light up, one by one in pale mauves, or bright golden peach, and then slowly go dark, as night begins to close the curtains. I feel blessed to live in such a place.

Dusk on Sharon Hill, view towards Mooselauke at our home

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote "Vitality shows not only in the ability to persist, but in the ability to start over." He was probably thinking of his writing, or maybe even his down-spiraling life at one point, but to me it resonates with oil painting. This week I have been working in the studio on an older painting, Change of Fugue of Light, from last year that I never could get right, never got it to a place where I wanted anyone to even see it. Since it is a snow scene, it seemed a good week to get back at it. I sanded down some of the ripples the tissue underlayment made, and started laying on paint, and scraping it off. Maybe I did not really start over with this piece, but I certainly reinvented it. I am still very unhappy with it, and  was up til 2 one night waging battle in the studio with this recalcitrant painting, mumbling at it, and slinging my brush and knife all about in frustration. I have given up on it again for a time.  Altoon Sultan, an internationally known Vermont artist, writes a beautoful, beautiful blog , and this is the quote that defines it-- Thomas Beckett's "Ever Tried. Ever Failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better." I need to take that to heart.

It amazes me how some paintings just never come together even after daylongs of work, whereas others can be completed alla prima in one sitting, such as this large piece, Break of Day, that was done in a matter of hours, and sold well, barely dry several weeks later, at my Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center show. 

Break of Day   48" x 24"  oil on canvas
  This past week I also slightly reworked another older, winter-themed piece, Snow by Winter Sewn, and now have it much closer to what was in my mind’s eye when it was begun.

Snow by Winter Sewn   20" x 20"  oil on canvas
Once again though, the clarity in the photo is poor, and the colors are not all true. It is a fugue of blues, lavendars, purples, with just a few areas of golden-orange ochre to spark it up for contrast. 
Until I have it in a gallery, I have hung the completed Windswept Cranberry Bog piece (see an earlier posting) in the mudroom, so that you see it right when you come in. I had no other free wall large enough for its 48 inch width!

Friday night, we went to  to the art opening of my young friend Cecily Herzig in the fast-becoming-artsy town of White River Junction. She is a unique painter: take a look at her website.
Cecily's website
Tomorrow, I need to get ready for our upcoming four days in New York at our time-share in the city. It will a time for wearing real clothes instead of paint spattered sweats, dining out, seeing 
La Boheme at the Met, hopefully getting to the other Met or the MOMA museum, and on Wednesday,entertaining our granddaughter at a show and dinner for her 6th birthday. So,no blogs for a while. When I get back  I hope to put together a new storage thing for my studio--- maybe that will encourage me to clean up my workspace. 

1 comment:

  1. Hello Debbie, thanks for your post on my blog, which showed up not on blog but in email, so I followed it through and have enjoyed reading several of your posts here. yes, it is amazing how some paintings are born to be and others cause a challenge.