The Paradox of Work and Work

What do I mean by that? Well, there is the finished work of art itself, and then there is all the work that goes into making it:

The grunt work, like prepping, priming/gessoing, or maybe stretching the canvas. Perhaps ordering the sizes you want from the canvas maker. The sanding and sealing of panels — all in which are a kind of methodical, meditative process, or a giant pain in the ass, depending on how you look at it. There is also the menial work of rounding up the supplies you will need to make what you have been thinking about, which brings us to:

The strategies and ways you go about forming ideas for paintings. This is another kind of meditation. They might come from dreams, clever anecdotes, real or fantasy scenery or persons, abstract or surreal feelings and a way to use color to get all this across. All this shit takes a massive amount of thinking and meditation. It’s similar to a book I once read called Mount Analogue: Climbing a mountain in your mind so to speak, and making it real as you go along. Sometimes it comes really easily. Sometimes it takes a boat load of preliminary drawings, mixtures of ideas on paper, sketchbooks, etc., time ticking away for a while. It’s hard to say exactly, but you can’t force it. You can only do – something else – in the interim.

Then, do I even want to start talking about the actual application of painting? It’s such a sacred, intimate and even private subject, I shouldn’t dare. Besides, I’m not painting anything right now. I’m in meditation mode. I’m drawing. I’m prepping. Over the last few days, I have been sanding and sealing six small birch panels. I am hoping I have just applied that last coat, but we’ll see in the morning.


I just got this great new Dewalt palm sander which is making my whole life easier, not that using the block sander was so much work or anything, but the Dewalt sure makes it so severely even that I just might get away with three coats of sealer rather than four or five.


Also in that picture is my new Ingento paper cutter! mjp found it for a steal on Ebay! We are quite excited about it. Makes for better book making and paper chopping!

Anyway,  back to my 20 x 20 inch panels. I’ve also decided to change my sealant mixture today, which for some might seem like blasphemy! From now on, instead of a 2 to 1 mixture, I’m going half shellac and half DH alcohol. It makes for a smoother, more even application, IMHO. I like it better. If you are going to follow my advice (which you never should) seal the back first with a more shellacy mixture and the first coat of the front and sides, then add more denatured alcohol as you go along with each coat with a light, even sanding between each coat. You should be able to get away with four coats that way.

Here’s the other two:


Like I said, I’ve been drawing a lot. Lately it has been my most honest work. That and my very last oil painting. The pink one. This one:


I did a little experiment and went through 100 paintings of mine – that I actually liked – and wrote down WHAT I liked about them. There were many repeating elements and I was left with a list of 21 things. I was then able to turn the 21 into 10 (just by wording it differently) and I am pinning it up in my studio to use as a jumping off point. In fact, I should title it SPRINGBOARD! So I think I am just clearing and cleaning up my spiritual clutter (I can’t believe I just used that wording) so I can begin some intense study and focus on my work. I’ve had a LOT that has been holding me back.

Mentally, I have been a mess. Some of my medications have ceased to offer me emotional benefits and I am in the middle of changing quite a few of them at the same time. It has been rough. This comes at the tail end of a bunch of drama with my best friend. 34 years of trust and a kind of amazing strength just broken, shattered into little shards of glass that slice me open at the slightest, unwitting movements I made. I had to make a decision to stop getting so unbelievably HURT, so I took myself out of that picture. And then, this week, I decided to leave my eight year relationship with the George Billis Gallery – I mean, without drama or burning any bridges. He gave me a lot of opportunity and I will always appreciate that, but I just left. And now I am on my own.

Now, I just want to see what my art begins to look like out here in no-man’s land. Should be interesting to get to know myself again.


One thought on “The Paradox of Work and Work

  1. kel February 25, 2013 / 6:41 pm

    great post…putting your heart on the page.

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