I aspire to paint atmosphere, emotion, and memory–with oil paint. What one might call the essence or sensation of a landscape, these spaces become metaphors for my struggles, most often those associated with the creative life. However, as happened with this painting, using local landscape references can be problematic if I start to get too attached in a painting to what I see instead of what I feel: forcing a subject instead of responding to the glob of paint on the canvas. That instead of coaxing the painting’s evolution, I begin to think too much and know too much and act too much out of the wrong brain. I call it getting too literal.
From James Elkins in What Painting Is: Oil paint can’t be entrancing just because it can create an illusion, because every medium does that. No: painters love paint itself, so much that they spend years trying to get paint to behave the way they want it to, rather than abandoning it and taking up pencil drawing, or charcoal, or watercolor, or photography…It is no wonder that painters can be so entranced by paint. Substances occupy the mind profoundly, tethering moods to thoughts, tangling stray feelings with the movement of the body, engaging the full capacity of response and concentrating it on unpromising lumps of paint and color. There is no meaning that cannot seem to flow from the paint itself. (thanks to SlowMuse by Deborah Barlow for turning me onto Elkin’s ideas.)
I caught myself well into this work forcing the subject and then in an attempt to correct, I got too tight. Today, in my new studio with its fantastic light and energy, I finally grooved into that right space where I was responding to the paint and color again. Although completely suggestive of many a place, this painting is purely an imagined landscape that carries with it this sentiment.
I believe in all that has never been spoken. I want to free what waits within me so that what no one has dared to wish for may for once spring clear without my contriving.
Book of Hours I, 12 Rilke