Tuesday, July 13, 2010

time passing

i have only been out to the studio to paint twice in the past week, really just to assure myself that i can work with my wrist in a cast. both times, i stuck to drawing, sometimes with oil sticks, at others with charcoal, pencil, oil pastel, or nupastel. this wasn't a deliberate restriction, but i felt more comfortable with using these materials than with getting out the cold wax and the full panoply of paints, which can get quite messy. the pain in my arm lessens each day, but my energy level is more limited than normal, and after an hour or so, i've been ready to stop. so, my blue cast is still quite clean, though i imagine that will change.

the focus on drawing has actually been very useful, and i'm grateful to have had the space to explore it (though i'll also be glad to get back to mucking around in the paints!). as usual, the first issue raising its little head is how, on the one hand, to avoid drawing things and also, on the other, to refrain from mindless, iterative, meaningless marks. i found myself asking myself, where do i want to put a mark?, and, what color do i want in that spot? these two questions were easy to answer. but then: what mark? a loop? some scratches? the shape of some polygon? a long line? a doodle?

asking myself what i want to "say" with the mark doesn't seem to be helpful. to some extent, i've been guided by the knowledge of the country i am trying to portray, which is quite angular ("standing up country", they call it). even the vegetation is not the soft, rounded, lush, dissiduous flora of other climates: these plants and trees fight for life, frequently stand alone, and withstand harsh winds and rains just like the sandstone does. there is a beautiful dead juniper tree on our property that has been sculpted by the elements as much as any slot canyon.

in these two studio sessions, i've made the "mark" decision based on the character of the space i want to fill, combined with what surrounds it, and my own whim. it has freed me to know that i'll be painting over the marks i make; it diminishes their importance and turns them into promises for the future rather than finishing touches, as is so often the case in traditional painting. still, there is more work to be done, here, and i have been awakened to the value of just drawing for the sake of it, as an investment.

the image above, canyon night (8" x 14") is one of the smaller pieces in the show.

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