I heard Carol Marine’s great Artists Helping Artist interview today. One of the things she talked about was failure. Every year she has a bad paintings party where artists bring their bad paintings and they destroy them. She said that every time one of her paintings goes into the bad painting pile she feels bad, and each time she pledges to have fewer in next year’s pile. But this year she’s changing her approach. She wants her bad painting pile to be huge. Bigger than it’s ever been. Because if it is, that means that she’s trying new things and taking risks.
I love this idea. I don’t have a bad painting pile, but I'm realizing that bad paintings give me something else: freedom. If a painting looks terrible there’s no way I can screw it up. In fact, it’s very possible that the worst thing I can do will actually make it better.
Once I got myself into my studio today (it took awhile), I started by laying down thick acrylics working only with primaries, white and burnt umber. Mari Navarro was my inspiration as this is how she works. My original plan was to try the Navarro style. Paint until a shape emerges and then go in with line (a pen) and find shapes to turn into figures. I didn’t make it that far. Something about laying opaque creamy paints down onto canvas was intoxicating. Thin translucent layers are unforgiving in a way that thick opaque layers are not. I haven’t blended that much in my 2.5 months full time. It was luxurious.
By the end of my original blurbs of paint, I was searching for bad paintings to cover. Bam, a disaster face turned into creamy blues. A horrid bouquet now a creamy purple. What success!
At lunch, I went to Mark Bailey’s show at Gallery 903 in downtown Portland and came back inspired to work on my faces. So I took my least favorite canvas and started the process. Inspired by Karen Wippich, I tried to lay in dark darks right away. To get it over with. Very quickly I realized that it didn’t matter how much I liked anything, my original drawing was bad. The eyes were off. I haven’t yet learned how to draw eyes that are turned so that circles become ovals. I’ve now added that fact to my “Learn THIS!” (always be learning) list.
But now the fun began. I’d screwed it up. The painting was ruined. Perfect. So I got to work trying to correct things, and again, working with opaque paints is wonderful. I realized that my two irises were different sizes so I tried to reshape the them (still in circles but that’s OK) and make the pupils seem less drugged out.
The end result (although I may not totally be finished) is something I feel really good about. It doesn’t say what I want to stylistically and I’ve got a lot to learn (always be learning!) about painting faces, but when I look at this painting I see how I want to approach paintings: With a good attitude. That’s not always easy to do. However today felt like the best kind of play. The play where you’ve messed up and then learned a ton while working back through the destruction.
PS- For the love of God, if you are in the Portland area before Mark Bailey’s show leaves, go see it. Then when you’re looking at the paintings think that all of them came out of a 32-year-old. Then cry a little. But then rejoice a little...because we’re going to get to see what comes out of this guy for many many years. And that’s pretty damn awesome.