Aye – the days are lengthening; a hint of the warmth to come hangs in the air – and – at last, the wolves have drawn back into the silent depths of the forest. A time for fresh beginnings. Stretching. Seeking out new ways. Into paintings maybe. Only risk is not being able to find my way out again. Aware of the risk of rambling off onto one of my not so clearly marked paths, I,m not sure if want to – or if I’m entitled to try and scatter bright pearls of precious wisdom, in the hope of marking a path for anyone else who wants to come along. Tricky things paths. And pearls of wisdom. Usually best to trust your own sense of direction and find your own. When I’m lost in the middle of a painting (and just as often at the beginning..), trying to find my way into it, and out somewhere at the other side, success in finding a suitable exit has usually depended more on wrong turnings; paths that end up overgrown, and stubbing my artistic toes on all manner of unforseen obstacles, than it has on just following a relatively well kept path straight to the exit. Inadvertently stumbling across a chance at push a a painting along, has almost always been as a result of tightening my belt, taking a deep breath and striding off into the unknown. With my fingers firmly crossed.
Pre-empting your doubt and incredulous exclamations, I readily admit that all this seemingly fervent and wildly spontaneous activity is not actually that often so apparent in the finished paintings. Most of it ends up buried in the rather finicky, meticulous stuff that I feel compelled to layer over everything. But it is there….the more “arty” part of the journey, where not yet lost, but with panic threatening – I’m quite contentedly splashing and daubing around, planting trees and rocks rather haphazardly with a few devil may care strokes of my trusty hogs-hair number 8. I love both parts equally. The first loose attempts at capturing something and the later stages with the little details to give a spark of life. And both parts feed off each other continually through the whole process. Tightening too much too early and having to go back in to re- establish the broader under- currents to unify things again, is one of the few constants in my painting.
It was probably some hungry, hallucinating monk from the Exotic East that first came up with the notion about “the journey being more important than the destination”. I reckon he was onto something. I know that I always, without exception want to end up with a finished creation of rare beauty. A jewel like thing to startle the senses and take the breath away. Never really happens though. The journey always takes over and I end up somewhere else – scratching my head and wondering where I strayed off the path. That jewel like perfection, though clearly sign posted, always seems to be just out of view, over the horizon, yet if I remember to let myself be led by the little pearls cast down from previous wanderings , they can show the way to unexpected little victories and pleasant surprises. Most of the progress is invisible – but every part of the journey is stored away somewhere, so that when , I find myself at yet another unexpected crossroad, the decision of which direction to take is arrived at a little more confidently.
Making a mess and getting lost, usually calls for some kind of quick thinking and spontaneous decision making. Desperate decision making sometimes – but this is where the happy accidents and discoveries happen that make it worthwhile.
In this painting I spent ages stumbling around in the top left quarter getting lost and bothered. I’m afraid the photos are not that good – but they are as fine a record as anything – of dead-ends, bad decision making, and aimlessly wandering around looking for a way out. I became a bit fixated on the area. Literally – not seeing the wood for the trees. Didn’t resolve it as I wanted – but we reached a compromise, and I moved on. Questing after that perfection too soon. I do it constantly – goaded by the perfect picture that I have in my head, seducing my arguments and kicking my ambition out of bed. I see it. Why can’t I just reproduce it?. Thats a question that I won’t go anywhere near – but I suspect that the monk, would ponder a moment, and announce sagely , “That without the journey being undertaken, how can one expect to arrive anywhere at all.” It was probably the same enlightened little chap who felt compelled to mention that “Perfection is unattainable.” That’s good enough for me.
However – when the drawing is in place, the colors beckoning from the palette and inspiration burning brightly, that is when the monks words of wisdom tend to fade. Perfection beckons, and seems within reach. This one is the one. I’m going to amaze and astound myself and the world. Then- as usual – I end up as some kind of landscape gardener with artistic tendencies, painting out rocks and tearing up trees. Planting trees and painting in rocks. Going round in circles but I do love it. Even more so, when all those invisible, subliminal lines and shapes fall into place, and I know I won’t have to go down there again – but can continue down the path. It’s only by trying different options that I can arrive somewhere I want to be – or somewhere my characters are happy being. But I’m in there with them, rooting around. Bit like a colorful game of snakes and ladders. Take a chance and slide back down to find another way in. Take another chance and suddenly there you are. Gazing down from giddy heights at the little sparkling pearls marking the path where you found the “Way out” sign.
Strange how we have the capacity to constantly learn from our mistakes, and can confront them head on, again and again, learning as we go – and yet, we also possess the equally important capacity to ignore, again and again, the overwhelming weight of evidence that insists we won’t be allowed to reach that state of perfection.
Again – I have my suspicions that that little monk had a pretty good explanation for this as well. Something very deep, profound and mystical and thoroughly irritating in the iron logic of it’s inescapable truth. More than likely….but that kind of thing I’m even less qualified to ramble on about.
So – happy trails – and watch out for the wolves. (Looking forward to stumbling across the one signposted for Kansas City, and meeting any fellow travelers there.)