Painting #34

Here is my painting number 34.

#34, May 2016 (Oil on Canvas on Panel, 10 x 8 inches)

This somewhat abstract and romantic coloured painting was based on a much larger acrylic painting (photo below) which I quite liked but did not seem to really excite my family (my primary audience).

Original Image, Acrylic (approx 60 x 60 cm)

As you can see, with my Painting #34, I stuck to the original composition and mainly monochrome colour scheme, but in my #34 I decided to try a more intense purplish-blue sky. This took a lot of courage and I am still a bit ambivalent about the outcome. Here is the underpainting:


This week The Question – “Why Paint?” came back and visited me in the studio once again this week. I wrote about this earlier in another post.

To any readers who are professional artists, my harping on this issue may seem strange. But for me as a part-time, amateur painter that question is a constant companion. Each day I enter my studio to see tens of canvases – each representing one or several hours of effort – simply waiting to be “recycled” (scraped off and painted over).

I often have only night time hours, after a day of “real” work, in which to paint. This morning at 6:30 am I stole half an hour before work to do an underpainting for what may become #36. When paintings turn out well, I do not think about The Question too much. But my previous painting took hours of work – intense observation, lots of expensive paint.

Some bloggers kindly gave positive and supportive comments on this painting, which I take to heart and appreciate. But the end result just did not evoke the emotion I was looking for, and five minutes after finishing it, I knew it was doomed. When this happens after so much emotional investment, I have to ask “Why do this?”.

I have done lots of introspection on this – and time and time again I come up with the same answer: If I am centred and still inside, I can paint as a gesture of thanksgiving – a prayerful, slow, concentrated offering of my time, the heart, of the best I can muster, as a creative act of redemption.

But I am struggling to say what I feel – the following statement by Walter Tandy Murch (whose paintings I greatly admire), perhaps expresses what I mean to say:

What does the mind wander to the most while just painting. For me, the secret seems to be paint the Best (controlled) way you can and to your utmost. But while painting let the mind go way out in space. Let the mind wish or desire for the things you know should be (but are not). Let the mind correct what is wrong. Usually the subject you happen to be working on determines to a great extent the path the mind takes. A whole new world exists and moves in the mind while actually making a painting . . . But the thing to remember is that the world that the mind returns to the most will come out, will show in the completed picture . . .

Source: Painting Perceptions Website

I guess I feel that painting can be an act of offering something of myself – to What I cannot say. The hard part  – and here I have miles of canvas to go – is to ensure that my attitude is such that the ACT is the thing, and not the result (painting to music helps a lot). I also think the ideal of a “perfect offering” is a trap that can spoil both the act and the result.

How beautifully deep Leonard Cohen has looked into this:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

from “Anthem”, by Leonard Cohen from the Album “The Future”

So in conclusion, a note to myself : pause and bow before you enter your studio to paint.

I am quite happy. I leave you with another view about work, and about certainty and uncertainty of what is real and imagined, what is still and what is moving:

Open and Closed Space
With his work, as with a glove, a man feels the universe.
At noon he rests a while, and lays the gloves aside on a shelf.
There they suddenly start growing, grow huge
and make the whole house dark from inside.

The darkened house is out in the April winds.

“Amnesty”, the grass whispers, “amnesty.”
A boy runs along with an invisible string that goes right up into the sky.
There his wild dream of the future flies like a kite, bigger than his town.
Further to the north, you see from a hill the blue matting of fir trees
on which the shadows of the clouds
do not move.
No, they are moving.


Tomas Transtromer, translated by Robert Bly

A heartfelt thanks to all who have commented on my posts, and encouraged me with likes and especially to all followers of my blog. May your wild dream of the future fly like a kite!

12 thoughts on “Painting #34

  1. so well said! and the Cohen quote about the cracks and light… I decided I must type this up and give to my class next week!! it is so spot on!
    what I really loved about your #34 – the sky, silky smooth with the mood and ambience conveyed so well! your dark poplar like trees on the right, so rough and ragged, to contrast next to the silent silken sky………. delightful to my eyes. cheers, Debi


  2. Count me among the professional artists since art is the main thing I do & I have a lot of work now that I’m preparing to market, etc. But I believe I know exactly how you feel.

    First regarding art, I have wanted to be an artist since at least the age of 9 and though I had many, many bumps along the road (and periods of time when I did almost no painting — as when I went to college where I studied literature), painting is the thing that always pulled me back and it did so because I love the difficult challenge of it, love thinking about things in visual ways. Its struggles were not things I welcomed at first, though they are now. These days I want to make painting “harder.” I look for things that puzzle me, want to attempt things that I don’t know how to do. But I come to that openness to difficulty from a certain place and amount of confidence that has grown from the things I do know how to do. I face the unknowns by using what I do know. I got skills over the years.

    Still, there’ve been times when I think about a specific work that it’s a wreck, why waste my time going further with it — and have learned to ignore that sentiment. A drawing that I have that is a particular favorite went that way. I was drawing my husband’s garden from a photograph and about mid-way it wasn’t working, but I kept going because “what the heck.”
    It’s turned out to be a very special drawing to me when it was finished, and is different from other things I typically do, but I’m so glad that I didn’t abandon it at that icky, awkward stage — that I kept going. I say this because I love it. And I wouldn’t have it if I had listened to those doubts. There are other works that were also awkward that I’ve made the last year that I didn’t like so well — one I posted at my blog though I didn’t report the negative feelings. I know that I have learned things, have gone out of the comfort zone because of the negative feelings. So even regarding a drawing that I didn’t like, I’m glad that it led me into new territory. Perhaps at some later juncture that new territory will further develop into something that does have meaning for me, that I’ll care about the way I love the drawing of my husband’s garden.

    Maybe it’s different from your situation because painting is my chosen vocation and I’m committed to it unequivocally. But I have another example — a better one. When my daughter was little she began violin lessons through the Suzuki program (the one that emphasizes early lessons). I saw all these little kids playing the instrument, knew that some would get to be good at it in a few years, asked myself “why not me too.” So I got a cheap violin and began learning along with my kid (I already knew how to read music, but with the violin I found that for me learning to play by ear worked better).

    I don’t know if you have any idea how awful a violin sounds when played by someone who doesn’t know what she’s doing — especially a cheap violin. It really did sound like I was torturing some unfortunate animal. I didn’t just think about quitting sometimes. I thought about it nearly every day. Later I bought a decent student instrument and it sounded a little better but I was still a long way from being “musical.”

    I kept at it. Now after over ten years I am beginning to understand the violin and I play okay — not likely to ever be confused with a “real” violinist but I am very glad that I didn’t give up. It opened up a whole new world. I hear music differently now — especially if there’s violins in it. I hear the violins as I never did before. I love my violin and have a special relationship to what I learned because I gained it mostly alone (had a few lessons for a while but not many).

    And yet! When I first warm up, in let’s say the first ten minutes of a session, I often wonder all over again if I should quit the violin — why keep doing it — I’m not very good — etc. I hear all those negative messages again. I have learned to ignore them. After a bit, warmed up, I play music that I love and I am always getting better. And I enjoy it. It stretches my mind! And I can put on a record album and play along with it. Some professionals can’t do that if they don’t play by ear. Isn’t that neat!

    Sometimes the temptation to quit comes when one is nearest to making a break-through. So if you love what you’re doing — and sometimes even if you don’t love it! — I think you gain by having faith, going forward, being willing to see where the path leads, find the new experiences that it offers.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I decided that my long comment was essentially a blog post so I copied it to my blog then revised it to stand alone. What you wrote really set me thinking. I’m glad you liked the comment — it is awfully long — but I was very moved in response to what you said. And I’m glad that you’ve decided to paint! Of course! And it’s fun seeing your paintings and reading the commentary that accompanies them.

        Liked by 1 person

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