A Most Perplexing Painting

Posted by on Mar 2, 2018 in Blog | No Comments

Monumental Mountain, Acrylic on Canvas, 2018, 30 x 40 inches

If you read my last post, “I Think I Am Getting Somewhere,” then you may recall that I have been pretty excited about this painting. (Click on both images for a larger view.)

It is hard to describe how completely confounding this painting has been. I have spent a ridiculous amount of time on it. RIDICULOUS. Not that it really matters in the end. But in my past paintings, monumental efforts could usually be visible in the final image in terms of detail and/or size of the piece. In this piece, it was failure after failure after failure, and sheer stubbornness to keep trying something new, something different, until I could get some sense of resolution. I think it is finished, for now at least as there is nothing I wish to change.

Monumental Mountain (DETAIL)

This battleground has given me some areas of lovely textured surfaces. In fact, my daughter has dubbed it the “Invisible Mountain” painting since a mountain that was previously reworked so many times and eventually discarded, quietly exists if you look closely. Looking closely is what I find quite interesting about this piece. There is a lot of history under the surface. As I kept painting over areas and adding new paint, I thought about Jay deFeo’s The Rose. I wondered when she started whether she had any idea of what it would become, or whether she just couldn’t get it right and kept working on it until it took on a life of its own. I looked it up and she said she simply began the piece as an idea that had a center to it. After seven years her piece weighed almost a tonne and was over 11 feet tall. My paint of course looks like watercolor on a paper postcard in comparison. As I reworked areas constantly I started to think that I would never get what I was looking for and that maybe I should just paint over the whole darn thing and start afresh. But then a last ditch effort would move me slightly forward. Until I returned the next day. I am sure glad it didn’t take seven years for one painting. That would probably make me feel even more insane. But maybe it will take me seven years of painting this way to make a really, really good painting. Who knows?

Here’s the truly exciting part. Painting this piece really makes me feel like I can do anything. Not in an egotistical look at this amazing thing I made way. Not at all. In fact, I’m still trying to decide if I even really like this painting. I’m interested in it for sure, but maybe it’s “too pretty” or, oh no, is it actually “pretty ugly”? But this painting freed me in a way that is difficult to explain. And right now, I feel hugely optimistic as an artist.

And that is monumental.