"Lotus Opening" by L. Folk

Sunday, October 4, 2020

The Evolution of a Painting


The Great Marsh, reworked

During this time of unemployment and uncertainty, I want to paint. My writing projects have all ended or are at stopping points, so I decided to switch mediums. I have gone back to paintings that I thought were finished, taking them out of their frames and reworking them, addressing the issues that have nagged at me. The Great Marsh is one of these. I framed it in early spring of this year and hung it above the fireplace. I stared at it for months, feeling there were things that could be further worked out. When I took it out of the frame, I looked deeply into the painting. There were shapes that weren't quite right, colors that needed silencing or fortification. I worked for hours to address these issues. 

Soliloquy in Dogtown by Marsden Hartley

What I have realized is that there are deconstruction phases and reconstruction phases to the process of making art. In painting, this is immediately evident, because painting is visual. This immediate perception brings on immediate responses like, oh no, what have I done? The fear of something irreparable arises. When I was younger and more inexperienced, I would chop up the painting and make it into a collage. But I've reached a point where I don't need to do that. I push through the deconstruction phase, look deeply into the painting, into the images I want to express to find answers. I wait. I test my patience. I take what I have learned from revising writing and use it for painting. There is always this devil on your shoulder wanting things from the work, accolades, the beauty of a finished product. You need to drown that bastard, listen to the angel that says, everything has its own time. I had a friend tell me that she wants nothing to do with old writings, old manuscripts; they came from a time when she was less skilled and need to be filed away under that heading. If I had done that, the two novels that have been published thus far would have remained in their primordial states, unknown. Everything can be reworked; it's up to you whether you want to do it or not.

From the original painting, I cut the river to a precise edge, softened the blue and used gold in the mud flats and grasses to add an ethereal element. I was happy with this. My intention for the first painting was to make the river a wild, energized thing, like Van Gogh's night sky in Starry Night. But for months, I felt as if the river were falling out of the painting. The evolved painting is more Marsden Hartley, with stylistic shaping, bold coloring, and a reflective essence. What I have come to realize in writing this, is that these masterworks were in the back of my mind, guiding my hand.

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