Dreams of the Abstract


Since I have committed myself to blogging all regular like, and since there is really nothing earth shatteringly new to write about, I thought I’d simply expound on what goes on in my head while working on a demanding piece.

I am in the middle of a painting of Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park (a place that we of Drawnonward have returned to several times) that has been hugely challenging so far. Every time I make a breakthrough and start to feel the  spreading glow of understanding, I reflect on it and realize that I have made bad choices early on and must essentially re-paint nearly the entire surface to bring it into line with what I have in my head.

Sometimes I choose to paint something so complicated and so intricate that during the process of materializing it I develop an almost adversarial relationship with the composition. I fall asleep with images of unresolved areas dancing about in my head as if taunting me. And while working, I need to step away far more often than with a more easily approached image, take a few deep breaths and remind myself that it WILL be done, eventually.

Right now, this Canoe Lake piece (detail of said piece above) is bending my mind and egging me on at the same time. Get ‘er dun.

I do though, occasionally wonder what it would be like to be an abstract painter – being free of the perceived shackles of representative imagery. I imagine painting with abandon and gusto – moving about the surface with a quick furtive passion that knows no bounds…. Of course, the reality is, that artists of every stripe worth their salt, struggle with their pieces in a myriad of ways. The process I imagine to be so free and joyous might instead be just as laborious and mentally taxing, if not more so. There a few abstract painters whose work I truly admire, but when it happens, I am in awe of the ability to make something of nothing. It is alchemy.

But ultimate freedom means endless possibilities, which means one must make choices to end up with something cohesive. All of my experiments with  going abstract in the last few years seem to me to have glimpses of something worthwhile, but I have yet to discover the ‘quicksilver’ feeling in that realm – when your brushes and palette agree with your hand and mind – but I do keep trying when the feeling strikes. Who knows? Maybe in my fifties or sixties I will leave behind representational painting and paint fully in the abstract and be released from the slavery of realism, but for now I will allow the images that dance around at night to keep dancing until the tune changes and a new beat demands new moves.

Next blog; the economic schizophrenia of the working artist.

‘Til then, enjoy these fleeting summer days.


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