Thursday, 23 May 2013

how much looking

This might sound like rather an obvious thing to say, but sometimes I'm amazed at how much simple looking goes on in the practice of making paintings. If you timed the amount of time I spent with a brush in my hand for a painting like this one, for example, you might see that the overall time spent literally painting was about 45 minutes. Compared to someone making a 6 foot oil painting over as many weeks, this seems trivial, and perhaps as if I should be 'churning them out'.

Ha! It would indeed be churning if I spent a day putting a number of those 45 minute sessions together and just kept painting most of the time. And, I've learnt, the paintings I would end up with at the end of the day would be completely different. Sometimes the first stage, like the first picture here, might sit in my room looking at me for a week, or even a month. It's as if the thing gets started, and then it says, well, you could just carry on without stopping, or you could stop and see what I have to say. I think I used to carry on without stopping much more than I do now. Now, I let the first stage sit there, and I look at it for days. I wait for it to say something to me, suggest to me what, of many possibilities, is most suited to happening next.

There's always the worry that whatever it is you like about the early stage will be obliterated as you proceed. That happened pretty much with this one. If I'd stopped at the lines around the dark blue centre, it would  have been a more interesting painting. I almost did. But I wasn't sure. So I decided to take the risk of screwing up what I liked, and went ahead. And screwed up what I liked. That happens all the time. And then I think, ok sit with it some more, or do some more, it's screwed up now, so what the hell (this is a particular feature of watercolour, I guess, there's not a lot you can do to take lines or colours back...). Often it never really becomes more satisfying, but even if it doesn't, I usually learn about something I would never have decided to do. Like put so many black lines over a light area. I would never have decided to do that.


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