Friday, May 10, 2013

I have made some poor decisions

First: for a painting which was executed in a string of bad choices just about start to finish, I am incredibly pleased by the outcome.

Having said that - this was a long, miserable process of a painting, though for different reasons and in different ways than Holding the Pass was. That painting was too hard, an exercise in fighting through over-ambition and improving the hard way; Tithe, on the other hand, was just tedious.

(oh. its title is Tithe. it finally told me.)

Well - 'just' tedious is not quite correct. It was definitely boring to work on, and it definitely had parts that were finicky and delicate and utterly mind-numbing to do, but so much of what I hated about working on this painting is how poorly planned it was. Oh sure, I did a 'good' drawing - but what I did in that drawing was the figure, and the wicker ball. The dead bird suspended in the ball was a very late addition, which I came to after I'd painted in almost everything else; the strings were thrown in on impulse almost at the end, in a fit of rage at and disgust in how boring a painting it was. That those two things are so important, that the strings are literally the key to make this painting work, and they were afterthoughts -

Yeah, I'm left more than a little stunned at how well it came out.

Relearning lessons is always an… interesting experience, but it's nice to know that I'm past that particular brand of self-flagellation such a thing would have sparked even half a year ago. I was certainly angry at myself as I realized each mistake in turn, but in the past it would have touched off a truly savage bout of self-recriminations and mental beatdowns. This time around, there was, as I said, a fair amount of anger, but there were no spirals of rage or stirrings of deep-seated self-doubt: I knew that I was better than the mistakes I was making, and at each one I stepped up and moved onward, even if it took a couple of days away from the easel to facilitate.

It's startling to realize, but this process makes me think I've taken another step toward earning my stripes. I'm not a 'gifted' artist but I've put a lot of time and effort into being a good painter, and looking at this painting I know I'm succeeding in that regard.

I made this painting come together - I did. The searing spark of inspiration that made Tristan and Isolde flow through my fingers, the bright clear picture in my head that Dawn's Herald came from, none of that was there. I just worked on it, and it wasn't fun or easy, but I took each mistake and bad choice and I fixed them. The bird, the strings at the end: those I'll attribute to that place in my head that sometimes gives me my paintings, but those couldn't have gotten there without the painting itself being there, and it was only there because I made it happen.

There are, as always, things that could be better - better executed, more polished, less generic, just one rung up and it's out of reach for now - but so much is going right here, in the overall sense, that I'm just going to sit here and feel triumphant and maybe a little bit smug at this painting that sat there for a few months and mocked me.

(Next time I paint something this - simple? uncluttered? - I am doing it at least five inches smaller each side, because one of the things I hated about this was how much boring/tedious space there was to cover. Though it was so nice to be able to work on a face that size…)

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