Learning from myself

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I've been thinking lately about what I want to paint and why. I suppose this is pretty important information, as I'll have to defend it in an uncomfortably short amount of time (and boy do I wish I did this thinking a long time ago), but it's been wicking me lately.

I looked through a bunch of old photographs as well as the entire archives of my photo blog to try to sort out what images I feel compelled to capture, what things I regard as beautiful, powerful, or in some way intriguing.

I came to the conclusion that I have been taking the same handful of photos since I was maybe 10 or 11 years old. I mean yes, the subjects change or the way I've framed them, but the goal is always the same, and that's a significant thing about the way I see. When I look at the world, I keep finding the same kinds of things in new ways every time, and they are what give me joy and excitement about seeing.

When I was absent-mindedly sketching, it occurred to me that I was remembering photographs and plotting out representational, if not impressionistic versions of some of my favorite images.

Then I had a mental brake-screeching sound effect as I thought "Wait a moment - I don't paint representationally!"

Every time I draw, I'm thinking about real things, however surreal. When I plan paintings, they have subjects, they have concrete ideas and thoughts behind them. Then I get to the canvas (or lately, masonite) and it's as if I've had a lobotomy. I come up with the same automatic gestures to fill the space, then model something out of them which has nothing to do with the original painting I wanted to start.

So I'm going to pay attention to myself, to the things I love, and I'm going to take a risk. Instead of rushing into my next painting and half-assedly constructing yet another vacuous abstraction, I'm going to take the time to (gasp) draw what I want to paint, and not just in washy brushwork, but actual, articulated forms in space. Even if it gets abstracted later on or completely transformed after that point, I want to start with something real and try to capture what I keep focusing on in my life.

The only thing standing in my way is my own set of prejudices and insecurities about painting representationally, based in an absurd snobbery which amounts to an education as arbitrary as HomerSimpson's condescending "Your paintings look like the things they look like." At some point I got stuck on the idea that that's not enough, when really, it's perhaps the most we can ask of ourselves.

What havoc this may wreak on my thesis prospects remains to be seen. I think I'm smart enough to be able to make a case for the change in program without looking like I gave up and switched gears at the eleventh hour, but it's going to take a real lot of discipline, courage, and dedication to teach myself to paint in a new way.

I have to at least try, though, or I'm not sure I could ever look myself in the mirror and call myself a painter without major misgivings.

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This page contains a single entry by Vicki published on November 13, 2006 11:19 PM.

The Space Between was the previous entry in this blog.

Brain tricks is the next entry in this blog.

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