I had the idea of painting a 12” x 9” November journal drawing onto a 50” x 32” canvas, but when the morning to paint came and I studied what had been a fun and meditative drawing, I found myself dreading its upsizing via paintbrush and acrylic. My initial hope was that I’d have a dazzling meditation object at the end of exhausting effort, but the more I studied the drawing, the more I realized that the tools I use in drawing are by their nature unsuited to painting. Paint has an inherently liquid and messy nature, and while in some cases a drawing (maybe sketch is a better word) can excellently anchor shapes in preparation for either abstract or realistic painting, trying to reproduce an existing drawing is … what’s the word? Foolish? Inappropriate? Boring? Shackling? A major waste of life energy?
Still, I had my idea and gamely set to the task a few mornings ago. Spice it up with a gradient background? Earth-tone brown? No, let’s try a celestial blue, then place the shapes in the middle. Okay. I was only a little daunted that the humidity was so low that even excessive glops of titanium white and cerulean and ultramarine blue kept drying before I got to work them across the semi-large surface. Though it occurred to me that oil would be much better suited to this particular effort, I figured winding up with big dry brushstrokes instead of some digitally perfect gradient was no big deal.
But after finishing the background, something klonked me on the soul and I realized the background gradient, in all its brushstroky messiness, could be what I really wanted, could be the entire finished painting. Because in the past I’ve had this same feeling about a background and then proceeded to stubbornly insist on my original intention to destroy it with fancy complicated foreground action-painting, I asked my wife Nancy to confirm whether I was done. Her enthusiastic response, including a heartfelt admonition not to place it in an upcoming art show so that she could meditate upon it herself for the next few weeks, was all I needed to fully declare this image complete.
The painting is not only a major answering force to recent psychic events, but it feels as if it’s also redefining what I want out of painting. Not the dreary struggle to produce “expression,” but the desire to create beauty and color to meditate upon. I think I’ve expected painting to be like writing, and it can’t be that. My previous painting methods tried to force the happy, necessary, and easy psychological expression of my writing into my visual work, but wound up turning painting into an onerous duty.
The title is Uncomplicated Redefinition. Maybe a little cumbersome! So what? The title means that I may have gotten a handle on what I want out of this medium. Visual art expression is not the same as writing expression. Drawing is not the same as painting.
Though I set out to do this painting as a chore, it became a liberation. How cool is that?
And I can let the original drawing just be itself. It doesn’t need to be redone, or blown up into some grandiose vision.
copyright 2017 by Michael D. Smith