500 Words

posted in: Art Making, Honors Thesis | 0

There’s been a stomach flu going around, slowly taking out the people at school, one at a time. It even wiped out the soup kitchen earlier this year, which was pretty intense trying to feed all those people so short handed!

I had managed to avoid it until today.

Or yesterday.

Or whatever; time has no meaning when you’re trying to figure out if your guts are going to rupture out of you, one way or another (or god help you, both ways at once.)

There was a moral to that story, I think. I guess, it’s a long way to say that we all have good days and bad days, and I while I was curled up in a little ball of pain – wondering why both blankets and sunlight hurt – I started thinking about how I went to a book signing on Saturday, where Steven Gould and Daniel Abraham talked about the creative process.

Their premise is that if you write 500 words a day, and say you have a bad day, later when you go back and read your story, you’ll not be able to pick those “bad” 500 words out of the rest of the stream.

One of my friends, trying to cheer me up, told me that she bet painting was a lot like that… and that if you have a bad day painting, you probably can’t even tell after the painting is done. I’m not entirely sure she’s wrong, but on the other hand, when you’re a writer, you can go into your story and delete the words that don’t work – that’s the beauty of writing in drafts.

It’s also the beauty of painting in “passes.” You put your first layers down, maybe a colored ground, and then sketch in where your lights and darks will be, and then you paint paint paint. Somewhere near the end of the process, you can go in and start glazing… subtlety shifting colors until you get the details and tones you really want. (The glazing part is my favorite part, I think)

But one of the problems is that if you’re having a bad day painting, and you mix your paint wrong, or your medium isn’t working, or you just aren’t paying attention, you can leave “artifacts” in your painting: brush hairs, gobs of paint, weird shiny spots, and heavy brush strokes that look out of place when everything else is smooth. To that end, I thought I would share some of those “bad” painting things that are all over my latest painting – page 21 of the namio series.

I don’t quite know how to explain it, but the paint in those two bad paintings are shiny and lumpy. It’s really irritating. They only way (that I can think of how to get rid of the shininess is to add a varnish, which I won’t be able to do until way at the end, when the painting is done. And I’m never sure when things are done, I tend to tinker with them forever.

You can also try to fix things by going in and adding in details (which is what I started doing, and which seems to be working.) If you add enough details, sometimes you can distract from weak painting.

On the other hand, sometimes you can get a really nice first pass, like in the one above. Sometimes the shadows and lights just work out perfectly, and then you’re faced with the terrifying thought of messing it up if you touch it.

I don’t know, I sort of lost the thread of where I was going with this. But, bad days happen with painting, and dang, there are a few that have some bad medium mistakes on them.

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