Late last year I decided to take a risk, head into uncharted waters, so to speak, and experiment with different methods of painting. My new venture included changes in “mark making”, or drawing, and new the use of mediums like oil pastel, ink, and acrylic paint.
The new tack was a result of an effort to expand my artistic voice by taking classes at the Art Students League of Denver. In one class I was challenged to approach all exercises in a non-objective manner. One of my really great teachers, Jeff Wentzel, suggested that I use my left hand (I am right handed), turn my body to the side, and look only at the canvas with my peripheral vision. Working completely outside of my normal physical comfort zone, I missed the canvas a couple of times and even marked the wall! This new approach was refreshing, however difficult for those of us who like to start with a plan. A fellow student remarked that what we were doing was, “simply random”. To which Jeff responded, “It may be reckless, but never random.”
Boat Without an Oar
At times these changes in creative direction have left me feeling as if I’m in a boat without an oar. I’m finding that I need more time to reflect and observe what I have created, and then even more time to consider and decide where I am to go next. The new methods and media are also time-consuming. They wreck my traditional “conceptual mojo” and frustrate my sense of progress. Oil paint has a flexibility because it doesn’t dry quickly. Acrylic paint, in some cases, dries within 20 minutes. So my plan, which, when I formerly began painting, started at the beginning, is now moved somewhere nearer the end. Therefore I must shift the spontaneity to the beginning of the process, before the paint dries, and decide where I am going somewhere in the middle. The planning only enters the scene near the end, when I decide I am done being spontaneous. If the results aren’t positive, I am compelled to start again or improvise–which gets back to the need for time to reflect.
I Hate to Waste
Some of this experimentation is complicated by my own personal hatred for wasting anything. There is now a much deeper stack of canvases sitting in the corner of my studio, awaiting a second chance. They are puzzles ready to be solved, road maps with the undiscovered terrain.
The Distant Shore
It’s a brave new world for me, to be sure, heading out into these unknown waters. My hope is that the time I take creating the artwork, and the expressive nature of the thing itself, will be the virgin shoreline in the distance.