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We Do What We Can

May 1, 2012

It’s been too long since I’ve posted, and not because I don’t have a lot of work(s in progress) to share. I kept thinking I was about to finish something and present it here all wrapped up, forgetting that I started this blog in the first place to show and talk about unfinished work. Anyway, I keep leaving paintings hovering on the brink of being done, afraid to fuck them up in their final moments, and going on to start other things, and right now I have about 7 paintings that are almost done . . . but not quite.

Andrew Sullivan, whose idiosyncratic blog I spin through daily, linked to this wonderful short essay today, a meditation on a quotation from a Henry James story about an author who, having completed many books, dies but before he is able to create his master work. The essay briefly examines his famous exclamation:  “A second chance! That’s the delusion. There never was to be but one. We work in the dark—we do what we can—we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.”

It’s well worth a read.

And while moving from Henry James to Sheryl Crow may seem like a bit of a jump, I was reminded of her song, “We Do What We Can.” It’s jazz-inflected, with some fun time signature changes and great mournful lyrics. I’ve always loved this song but nobody ever seems to know it.

5/100 Household Objects

February 6, 2012

Green Dryer Ball, acrylic on panel, 6" x 6" 2012


The Painty Mire

January 30, 2012

When painting goes well, it seems to hinge purely on some mysterious internal factor, not on any objective quality of the piece being worked on. If the gods will it, magical transformations can happen in any painting at any moment, but if the mood isn’t right, for whatever reason — if lunch didn’t sit well, or a phone call caused agitation, or someone stepped on an ant in Australia — well, then a bout of thrashing in the painty mire usually ensues.

One day, I am cruising along and can do no wrong; it feels like every time my brush touches the canvas I am in love with the mark it makes. I can finish a painting in one happy, charged day. And the next day I can do no right, sweating it out in the studio for eight hours in increasing desperation. But perhaps you only get to have those perfect days of smooth sailing in exchange for all those days when perspiration did not end up equalling inspiration.

The relationship between perspiration and inspiration is perverse, not to say inverse, exactly, because you do have to work to build up your craft, but it seems that pieces usually come together on the days when you’re not working so hard on them. You have to have one to get the other, just not at the same time, generally.

The truth is that the piece of art which seems so profoundly right in its finished state may earlier have been only inches or seconds away from total collapse.

— Art & Fear, David Bayles & Ted Orland

I guess there just different kinds of paintings, different ways to end up with something good. Sometimes it comes easy, and sometimes you have to get to that point where you don’t give a fuck, the thing is so bad —you’ll do anything to it — and that recklessness, that utter disregard for the precious object, can sometimes lead to an unexpected and wonderful breakthrough, something that you could never have set out to do sequentially and deliberately.

The secret (your methods) to painting needs to be discovered everyday. This is necessary because these secrets only work for a little while.

— Ken Kewley

4/100 Household Objects

January 30, 2012

Frosted Light Bulb, acrylic on panel, 4" x 6", 2012

3/100 Household Objects

January 27, 2012

Water Glass with Polka Dots, acrylic on board, 6" x 6", 2011

2/100 Household Objects

January 25, 2012

Pincushion and Spool, acrylic on board, 6" x 6", 2011

100 Household Objects

January 19, 2012

Clear Lightbulb, acrylic on panel, 4" x 6", 2011

I’ve started a new project, which is going to take me a couple of years, at least. I’m going to paint 100 household objects.

This is the first one in the series.

Dave is always telling me to write shorter posts, more often. So that’s all for now. More household objects to come.