Pearls from artists* # 560
*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
In describing her technique, Joan [Mitchell] once said, “I don’t go off and slop and drip. I ‘stop, look, and listen!’ at railroad tracks. I really want to be accurate.” One can imagine every stroke applied, every drizzle of pigment – both those visible in the finished work and those buried beneath its many layers – being the result of just such consideration. The majesty of Joan’s painting, which she would call City Landscape, was a quality it shared with all great art – the sense that it had always existed, and that during one inspired moment it had been dredged from the subconscious depths by a hand and mind graced with the talent and vision to retrieve it for the rest of us. That revealing work, so exuberant, so deep, so masterful, and so unlike the shards and violent explosions that had been her signature, was the result of Joan’s having survived a personal hell and her own imperfections. It was her prize for having persevered, and all who saw it were the beneficiaries.
Mary Gabriel in Ninth Street Women
Comments are welcome!
Q: Does your work look different to you on days when you are sad, happy, etc.?
A: I’m more critical on days when I am sad so that the faults, imperfections, and things I wish I had done better stand out. Fortunately, all of my work is framed behind plexiglas so I can’t easily go back in to touch up newly-perceived faults. It reminds me of the expression, “Always strive to improve, whenever possible. It is ALWAYS possible!” However, I’ve learned that re-working a painting is a bad idea. You are no longer deeply involved in making it and the zeitgeist has changed. The things you were concerned with are gone: some are forgotten, others are less urgent. For most artists the work is autobiography. Everything is personal. When I look at a completed pastel painting, I usually remember exactly what was happening in my life as I worked on it. Each piece is a snapshot – maybe even a time capsule, if anyone could decode it – that reflects and records a particular moment. When I finally pronounce a piece finished and sign it, that’s it, THE END. It’s as good as I can make it at that point in time. I’ve incorporated everything I was thinking about, what I was reading, how I was feeling, what I valued, art exhibitions I visited, programs that I heard on the radio or watched on television, music that I listened to, what was going on in New york, in the country, in the world, and so on. It is still a mystery how this heady mix finds its way into the work. During the time that I spend on it, each particular painting teaches me everything it has to teach. A painting requires months of looking, reacting, correcting, searching, thinking, re-thinking, revising. Each choice is made for a reason and as an aggregate these decisions dictate what the final piece looks like. On days when I’m sad I tend to forget that. On happier days I remember that the framed pastel paintings that you see have an inevitability to them. If all art is the result of one’s having gone through an experience to the end, as I believe it is, then the paintings could not, and should not, look any differently.
Comments are welcome.