I always feel like I’m starting over. Well, I guess each time I start a new piece I am technically starting over or more accurately beginning again. That’s not the kind of starting over I mean. What I’m saying is that with nearly every piece that I do I have to learn how to do the thing again. I think it’s because each piece exists to me as an individual experience. It’s definitely familiar territory but each time I begin it’s like I know where I want to go but the landscape has changed so I have to wander around a bit to find the right path. I suppose the “landscape” is me and where my mind is at the moment.
I was never taught how to approach painting systematically but I keep going and I keep learning. As I have stated in previous posts I did take a color theory class with Graydon Parrish some years ago and this has helped me to start understanding paint. I have a decent hand at color matching using a “Mostly Munsell” approach. Though I may sometimes begin systematically mixing a color it always shifts from that point, progressing in color experimentation on the fly, intuitively. I do like being able to return to a piece and mixing the right color to proceed. Despite that, every time I start a new piece I feel a little lost.
So much so that that initial wandering around has become a very real part of the process that I do have. I have seen and been shown many systematic ways to attack work as a check list of sorts but that has never really worked for me. I have tried it though…Thumbnails, loose compositional sketches, color roughs, studies and at times I still do all of these. Just not consistently, as a logical way of approaching work, at least not my personal work. [As an aside-Art directors for contract work appreciate at least a skeletal process that can minimize unwanted surprises and I do work within this process for them.] In my own work there aren’t usually many unwanted surprises but unhappy accidents do occasionally occur. They are relative to what I want to do but more often than not they tend to only be unhappy until I figure out how to make them work in the context of the piece I’m trying to execute.
Not having a formalized process may be a hindrance in getting work done in a linear way, but it is also a gift I have given to myself.
Because I do not have a formal process for beginning and executing a painting the same way every time I think I have given myself to exploration of the medium. I am not tied to a definitive way of painting. Nor do I find the process tedious, ever.
I used to have a very specific way I liked the surface of my boards, very smooth; gessoing, sanding, gesso, sand and final gesso layer of a board for prepping for paint. Always the same, always smooth and consistent. We have often told the kids that we will pay them to gesso boards for me because in years past I enjoyed a clean, smooth, consistent surface. But with teenagers that never seemed to come to fruition.
I have been exploring the texture of paper for so long within my graphite pieces I think it leached over into painting. Now I like painting on almost any kind of surface from smooth as glass (less likely nowadays) to a low relief textural landscape (more likely).
Back to the topic though. I think that whether you like knowing the exact path to get from point A to point B so that you get there quickly and confidently or you have a general idea of where you want to go but are not adverse to getting lost in the woods and exploring on your way, you do the kind of work and indulge in the kind of process that feeds you, body and soul.