JenArt, Still-Life

Our next assignment for the “Mitchnick Gang” was to work with, “UGLY PAINTINGS FAST and STRONG… to get into risk taking mode…and get energy flowing…” Nancy set up individual still lifes, at eye level, with various light sources and we went to work.

Although I heard her words, there is something within me that prohibits the sort of frenzied painting I interpreted as her meaning. A few times I have tried this, it usually turns out looking like a preschooler attempt and gets scrapped. I realize that is whole point of this type of exercise–right?–to move through and past your comfort zone so that you can make successful paintings.

Why am I so tentative– wanting to plan every detail, before even placing a single stroke down? I’m sure it comes down to a myriad of things: past teaching styles, my own slow, methodical nature, not wanting to waste precious paint, energy, time, etc. I’m sure the best answer is somewhere in the middle — a compromise if you will — Well, isn’t everything in life a compromise — when you really think about it?

Later that week I sent Nancy a note regarding my ideas for the painting and mentioned my thoughts on being a “fast” painter. Her response was most insightful, as always.

“You don’t have to go faster, you just need to simplify and get all the parts of the painting to hold together more beautifully and count (this is not easy… it is the abstract nature of all painting) different artists knit it all together in ways that have to do with their own vision and being… it is something you have to want to do… (not just get a clear image of what you are seeing… but build a little world where the absence of one part would have the whole set up fall apart… and not to many extras either… what is fine and necessary… sometimes a pretty bit is just in the way and has to GO… this really is work!

“The different bits need to depend on each other. It is another way to think… to make a painting that is always a pleasure to look at, the balance is mysterious… as you work towards this you may feel it in your spine, one thing for sure is to work seriously in connecting all the shapes and forms and SPACES… The space is still PAINT YOU KNOW… it is not nothing… it counts as much as an object… even if the observer never notices… we have to notice… All the elements have to connect and interact and hold together. All at the same time. Otherwise it is skillful and decorative and shows what you can do, but that’s IT! …it doesn’t always go anywhere or give you a base to build on… or simplify from.

“It’s bad news and good news. And one never stops learning… each body of work sets up new problems…and that is why it is so interesting and compelling… and never ends…


For some reason I can’t even remember the light source painting from class, but I went home and put together a little composition of my own using a bright table-top desk lamp as my light source. I raised it up a bit, so I didn’t have to deal with too much perspective.

2 thoughts on “Compromise

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