I’ve grown quite enamored of this painting I did a couple weeks ago. But I hated it and cursed the monster as I fought to hook it and lash it to my little boat for hour after demented hour like the Old Man and the Sea. Finally admitting failure to achieve anything near the original plan, I just gave up on it. Later that evening, however, I began to see that the painting must have demanded to depict some sort of default energy state …
But during the awful hours of execution what was going through my head?
Forget it, this is the end, I have NO IDEA what I’m doing! I should never have tried to fool with this gloppy CRAP it doesn’t do what I want it to do but then WHEN DID IT EVER??? I’m DONE with abstract painting forever, no scratch that I’m done with ALL PAINTING FOREVER!!!! Why are these damn colors behaving like the STUPID CHEMICALS they are when I want them to be METAPHYSICAL TRANSCENDENCE???? Instead I get muddy GLOP! The damn paint isn’t making any SENSE! It’s NEVER made any sense!
But wasn’t it was CURSED from the beginning? Why the hell did you think it was a good idea to use that leftover pre-primed canvas from the mural paintings three years ago? They never worked out, didn’t the murals themselves TELL you it was insane to paint so large? Okay 38” by 30” maybe isn’t so big but this canvas CAME from the seven by eighteen foot damn things and so it’s CURSED!!!! And anyway you’ve pissed off your Painting Muse for good this time! You’ve spent a couple years running down abstract painting as being just clever design, well look what you’ve got in front of you now, bub! It’s not even clever, it’s not even a design, it’s just BERSERK GLOP! It’s HORRIFYING is what it is!
I’m even running out of PAINT! I NEVER do that! Don’t you think THAT’S a sign of the Muse’s EXTREME DISPLEASURE? My acrylic supplies are almost gone! The damn mural project DRAINED them! Like I’m out of any kind of LIGHT YELLOW! Isn’t this because I’ve known all along I’m WINDING EVERYTHING DOWN? The whole damn painting GAME????
This isn’t any FUN! Like the Trip to Mars drawings were FUN and the drawings of Jack Commer characters are FUN! I know what I’m doing with pencil but face it I have NO IDEA what I’m doing with PAINT! I HATE paint! I love it but I HATE it! All now I can do is try to land this MF thing with the stupid tricks I know and hope we don’t collapse the damn landing gear and blow up the entire airport!
By the way, bub, what ARE those fancy tricks? Ha ha ha! You’re too exhausted to even remember your stupid TRICKS, aren’t you? You are in TROUBLE, Mr. Bub!
OK, MF, I’ve had it! See what you get when you mess with me! I’m coming with a PALETTE KNIFE and I’M GONNA SCRAPE YOU ALL OFF! Gonna scrape you all off TO HELL! HA HA HA!!! WAIT, THAT LOOKS EVEN WORSE NOW OMG!!!! Okay, okay, admit it, now you’re desperate, dammit, how can you waste a perfectly good canvas like this, okay, okay, steady, it’s time for NAPTHOL CRIMSON! Yeah, THAT’S a trick I know! Okay! Slop it all over EVERYTHING! WAIT! NO! THAT didn’t work either! OMG, NOTHING works! So scrape THAT off! And tell me again why the hell I ever thought to fool with this TOTAL INSANITY????
Okay, I give up! I just GIVE UP! You hear me, painting? I just GIVE UP! I’m DONE! I’m gonna leave you just like THAT! Like some stupid diary entry of how my day went, how you wasted ALL MY ENERGY! This is the PATHETIC BEST I can do! This is where you SHOVED me! Back to the damn DEFAULT! Do I just get slammed into this place when I have NOTHING TO SAY????
Hmm … the original concept in three by four-inch colored pencil was a striking abstract image, maybe not too important, but I predicted I could produce a shimmering, extremely flat gradient of blue and yellow in forty-five minutes. Maybe it would be beautiful. Of course they say that the plan is the first casualty of any battle. In any case I can understand why people make art manifestoes. The visual can be so overpowering, so demanding of unexpected struggle from the unconscious, that we try to survive the hurricane ocean with methods and rules and predictions. So I went into the painting with all my tricks. And when all those tricks quickly proved useless …
But a few hours after completion I began to accept Default Forces as the apt expression of its day. Even with some of its own beauty. A coat of gloss medium also helped. And later there was immense physical and emotional relaxation despite the real exhaustion that followed. Within a day or two I was in love with this painting. When you bathe the painting in the floodlights, and you stand in a trance and lose track of time, you know that the universe just happened to push in something important into this space. So the effort wasn’t wasted. Maybe such default forces are a good foundation. But where do you go from there?
I can begin to feel some shift, something new in this painting realm. Some high energy ideas for new abstracts are rising in spite of my intellectual, manifesto-oriented reluctance to entertain them. Throughout all the despairing thoughts as I executed the painting there was an unusual visceral recall of the thousands of images I’ve created over the years, both realistic and abstract, in paintings, journals, graphic novels and drawings, in pencil and oil and crayon and watercolor, all crowding in at once and demanding acknowledgement. Maybe it was all these energies that hurled the manifesto artist self to the bottom of his default well. Maybe that’s one way to get your bearings. It’s a place to start, anyway.
Copyright 2014 by Michael D. Smith