Saturday, April 25, 2020

"Precious" -- A Paralyzing Part of Creating Art

Many of my art friends often use the term "precious" to describe a painting or part of a painting that, as the artist, you fear losing or changing. When you look at something you painted and it just thrills you (becoming precious), it may be nigh impossible to change or edit the art, even when it will take a piece from okay to really good.

This happened to me recently with the painting Teach Me: Unsheltered America. I thought I was finished. I had so carefully painted the details: tent, grocery cart, litter, spray paint cans, figure, etc. However, the feedback I got from artists I trust was it was still too pristine to convey homelessness. I knew at the time, this had become precious. I was scared to touch it. So the painting sat in the studio for days on end.

In the meantime I started painting my backyard on a daily basis. I've always wanted to do this, and with this "stay home" situation, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to give it a whirl. Now these paintings were just quick (less than 2 hours) studies and were not "precious" at all. When I was done with one outside, I had no hesitation to take it into the studio to correct, revise and improve it.

Example 1 of Not Precious. This is how the painting looked as painted plein air. Pretty blah.

And this is is after some studio time of lifting, using gouache (opaque watercolors) over the transparent, and adding more contrast.

Example 2 of Not Precious.  This is the painting of azalea blossoms plein air. Terrible background.

 And this is how it looks after collage, more intense paint, and black background to make the colors pop.

And now back to the original topic, the painting Teach Me: Unsheltered America.

 Teach Me: Unsheltered America, when I was paralyzed.

Teach Me: Unsheltered America, after pushing back the industrial background using a mouth atomizer, roughing up the grass/dirt foreground, and darkening parts of the cement.

Do you think the narrative of the painting is more powerful now?

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