I Can’t Paint Like That

I know, I know. My next blog post was going to be about being queer, but I’ll have to get to that later. Today I want to talk about painting. Oh, how boring!

I’m starting to think I need to give up on trying/wanting to paint like my heroes. I am torn, again, about planning out my new series of “loosely” painted, figurative works. 

Not quite a week ago, I started on my plan using old family photos. I’m working on one of my mom laying on the couch but I don’t like how I rendered her. It’s not fucked up enough, and I know why. It’s because I’m using a photo reference.

Untitled, in progress, 2022. Oil on birch panel, 24 x 30 inches.

When I use photographic references, it always screws me up. But when I use my crude and twisted imagination, I wind up with cartoons that are too cartoony. I wish I could somehow make something in the middle. Something to my liking. I wish I could just paint like Lisa Sanditz, or someone like her. But I just can’t paint like that! I wind up painting like me.

I guess I have my own style. Maybe I need to learn to like it. I mean, it’s not that I don’t like it. It’s that I like other people’s art more than mine. Maybe I’m staring at mine for too long. Maybe I can’t surprise myself. Can one do that? Can you yell “Boo!” to yourself in the mirror and actually scare yourself? I don’t think so.

My Memoir series has a certain vibe. I feel like the new ones will probably look a lot like those, or work well with them. I’m not sure. I am fine with that, I guess. But I really lean toward sloppier paintings, even if other people aren’t fond of them. I really like how this one wound up. It was originally from a photograph that I struggled with and in fact, went through many lives.

I’m Here for the Party, 2021. Oil on canvas, 24 x 24 inches.

It took a lot out of me to “mess it up” for various reasons, various dumb reasons now that I look back—one being that I’d spent so much time trying to make it look “right.” Who cares? That might be the case on this one now, the one of my mom, but it’s not time, it’s fear. Fear of making it look worse. Fear of “ruining” it. But that’s not what I’m supposed to be about. I’m supposed to be fearless. I’m supposed to paint like a millionaire like I have an endless supply of canvases, panels, and paint. That’s what I’ve always told myself. 

I’ve also been thinking about those Memoir paintings a lot lately. I miss the process. I’d planned on trying to alter the process a bit because I ran into some discouragement when I wanted to publish a book about the series. The person who taught me the formula to create the pieces changed her mind about allowing me to disclose the process, especially in any sort of teaching way.

Watch How I Wrangle, 2019. Oil on canvas, 34 x 34 inches.

The situation made me want to totally change the way I worked on the series. I did change it a little but wondered if I changed it enough. Then, I sort of abandoned it and thought about pulling from family photos. 

But now I’m still torn. Family photos are “posed” and have zero imagination. They don’t challenge my interest much. I need to have more surreal, dream-like content or something, which is what I generally got from working with the sketchbook process. It involves a lot of stream-of-consciousness writing. That’s really the magic of them. Perhaps I can write about each photograph I pull and get some good extra content that way. I can try that.

And I’m still torn about style. How to render these things? A little fucked up, or a lot? Fucked up and cartoony, or super loose semi-realism? No matter which way I go, my work is still going to look…like mine. I guess there’s just no escaping my own hand. It’s not going to look like Paul Klee, or Van Gogh, or Amy Sillman, or anyone else. I just can’t paint like that. Oh well. 

2 thoughts on “I Can’t Paint Like That

  1. Hannah July 2, 2022 / 3:29 pm

    You’re so fucking awesome. I love you!

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