painting on lanzaote
Pictured above is the only painting that I actually finished during my week on the island of Lanzarote (Lanzarote #1
, oil and wax on paper with volcanic sand, 14"x11") which I gave to Alan, the artist who invited my husband and I there. It is considerably more gritty and gestural than a lot of my work, and seems to me a direct expression of what I had experienced in the landscape there. I was very pleased with it.
The painting below (Black Beach
) was done as a collaborative project between Alan and myself. On the third morning of "class" (loosely defined, since basically we were just painting together with me offering tips and suggestions, and Alan offering his own commentary) Alan appeared with an old painting that he suggested we work together on, and paint it completely over with cold wax and oil. The original painting was abstract/figurative, and apparently had been through several other forms including landscape. He considered it ripe for total transformation.
After moving the painting operation from the tiny laundry room to the more spacious patio, and arranging paints and materials, the work began--somewhat tentatively, but soon enough we were deep into it, discussing its progress and making bold moves. I had not worked collaboratively on a painting since graduate school, in the sense of a complex process of back and forth action and discussion, and I have never worked side by side with anyone. So it was a new and fascinating experience. (In grad school, several of us passed a painting back and forth, but we worked on it individually.)
There were inevitably a few moments of tension (like when Alan was momentarily distracted by a workman appearing at the villa, and I couldn't stop myself painting over a whole section that he was rather attached to...) But we managed to maintain a sense of humor throughout. It was interesting because our basic impulses with the paint were quite different--mine, to apply unifying color fields, and his to activate the picture plane with organic lines and forms. Over time (with compromise, generosity, and curiosity on both our parts) these differing approaches created some interesting layers of paint, and possibilities began to emerge. We made good use of solvent lines and drips, and scratching with skewers into the paint to add surface texture. In the end, there were even a few small areas exposed from the original painting.
The entire process took two full mornings, with a few minor adjustments and touch ups on the third. We arrived at the painting's final state after negotiating a division of the panel. The top section, featuring Alan's gestural marks, I was absolutely NOT to touch (not that I even wanted to, it was lovely.) The bottom section would be my territory. We worked together on the line between the two parts, trying to achieve not a strict division, but a more complex interaction. The final unifying touches on the painting as a whole were done by Alan on the last morning (when he requested that I just go away for awhile...the entire process involved a certain frankness.) I found it fascinating to observe how another artist approached dividing the space, deciding which areas were dead and which alive, which bits were worth keeping and which could go. In the end we managed to produce quite a nice painting, which Alan promptly hung in his villa.
The secret, I think, was a sense of play--we were serious and deeply involved, but carried on with humor and an experimental attitude. Sometimes we agreed, sometimes we disagreed, but there was mutual respect. (I knew from several previous days of painting with Alan, and discussions about various other painters, that he has an unerring eye and instinct for what works.)
In the continued spirit of collaboration I asked Alan for any comments on the painting process that he'd care to make for this post, and this is what he sent ..."Painting with Rebecca I was struck by her great virtuosity and skill with colour and gestural painting techniques. Her work, with its complex and seemingly almost random layering, is certainly not intended to be any window onto reality. Yet, watching her work it is apparent that her painting is not unstructured in any way. She creates little pools of "chaos" then seeks to impose order and structure on them and through them, on the painting as a compositional whole. I thought of the phrase "an archaeologist of paint" as she dug, scraped and re-exposed the many previous layers of her paint surface. The other key thing that struck me about Rebecca was how fast, focused and hard she worked!"
(Thank you, Alan, and you were no slouch yourself!)
The photo directly below shows the original painting, the next one down is an intermediate step, and lastly a shot of us at work.