I am not a great painter.
I’m impatient, I don’t use fine enough brushes for what I intend to do, I use too much paint and I know no techniques, really. Even though I’ve had an art show, I have a hard time thinking of myself as an artist.
And yet. An opportunity arose to make a painting, sort of a symbolist-landscape painting in a portrait orientation. And I decided to go with it. The result is the canvas you see at right, an attempt to think about and work out some things that I’m having some challenges dealing with and understanding.
I’ve made pretty good progress as a draughtsman, that is, as a drawer. I can draw this scene much more effectively than I can paint it (at least so far). But paint is a different thing entirely. My friend A. tells me that I try to draw with paint, instead of letting paint do its own thing. I can’t say she’s wrong. It’s a thing I’m wrestling with. How do you represent light and shadow in painting? How does wet paint on wet paint work? How does one work with wet paint on dry paint? How does one work with paint with added water? These are things I’m wrestling with at the moment as a painter. And of course there’s always a question or three about technique, but also there’s always a question or three about theme or subject.
The techniques I’m working with, the themes I’m exploring, the representations I’m trying to achieve, are all admittedly directed toward a religious theme. Maybe I wouldn’t be able to paint this in a public school; maybe I wouldn’t be able to show it. I’m not sure that any of that matters, though, for my readers — because the themes and questions are the same for any artist working with landscape or portraiture or representation or symbolist sorts of pictures: shadow, figure, clothes, drape of fabric, color schemes, and so on. These are a normal part of the work of being an artist, and they’re always true regardless of what the theme of the painting is or who’s doing it. The only question is how much detail to include, and how many hours to devote to the effort.