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Friday, January 12, 2007
  further thoughts
This is a follow-up to the last post and my thoughts on tension/energy and flow. I've had a few days in the studio to mull them over in relation to works in progress--looking for the main source of energy or tension in various paintings and trying to see how other aspects of the work either support or compete with that source. Playing off the idea in modern dance that the area of energy pulls the rest of the body along, I've been looking for a similar flow in my work, and trying to see where it's lacking and why. It seems to me that a small amount of resistance to the main flow is OK, and may add a bit of spark--but the energy of a painting can't be siphoned off in too many places or it definitely looses its strength.

Lately I've been working on a couple of new paintings in my Column series, and in studying these it's pretty obvious that their main energy comes from the overall format--the tall vertical dimension made up of contrasting horizontal divisions. So within the individual panels, images, lines and colors work if they complement rather than compete with the vertical grid of the composition...some have horizontal or vertical aspects to their composition, others provide color contrast that creates visual breaks between panels. When a Column painting is successfully resolved, the individual panels yield overall to the upward flow of the work.

That seems simple, and I'm sure I've been aware of it on some level or I wouldn't have any successful Column paintings! But it hasn't been very far forward in my mind, and lacking this awareness, I've spent a lot of time messing around with various textures, colors and compositions that didn't work. So, note to self: when a painting isn't working, figure out where the main "pull" comes from--how it is generated, what aspects of color, composition, contrast, etc. are involved. And then ask what aspects of the painting are clumsily straining in some other direction, sapping the strength of clear intention. Make this a very conscious process, a clear analysis. (Ah, finally a New Years resolution that grabs me!)
 
Comments:
Critiquing one's own work is a real trick! Sounds like you have a good handle on the process. I often talk to myself the way a teacher or mentor might suggest a litany of elements or relationships to think of, even in a scolding tone. Whatever works to kick the brain into gear.
 
Usually my studio self-talk isn't all that helpful, like "hmmm, maybe that needs more blue" or some such. Just addressing a specific problem. Perhaps the difficulty does come from having to switch into "analysis" mode, right to left brain--that's hard.

Then every now and then I arrive at something that actually seems true from painting to painting. I mean something that can be generalized, that goes beyond just reacting to what is in front of me--and that's exciting and seems authentic and fresh. It doesn't have to be all that original, just something that I've put into my own words and recognize in my own experience... I think that's what these last few entries are about.
 
You put into words what all of us go through in the studio. Like Karen, I usually talk to myself...not that coherently either, asking when things aren't going well.
When they are, I'm just happy and thankful.......and not too critical.
 
As an old weight lifter I learned many years ago that to fully contract a muscle that I first needed to fully strtch it out. The biceps oppose the triceps, the quadraceps oppose the hamstring muscles, etc. Life is filled with tension and balance. As for me, when I need to self critique and figure out the work, I tend to go quiet and wait for the work to talk to me.
 
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