The Way Of The Dodo
I’ve worked on one painting all week and it seems it’s going “the way of the Dodo” (pronounced dd) . I know, I know, I dwell on this subject—the subject of failed works that is; I guess because it’s so heart wrenching when it happens.
It’s what Molly Barnes (How To Get Hung , Journey Editions) aptly defines as “dreadful, gut-sinking, morale-lowering moments that come with unsuccessful experiments” and she says that it’s a “numbing fear that comes with exposing your soul”. It makes me ask, “why do you put yourself through this”. I don’t know what I’m expecting other than the obvious–better results, more often.
My question to myself should be “why do I keep making the same mistakes” because, when I look at it, there does seem to be a theme running through all the failures–one of over-working, loosing the values (or never really having them to begin with) and no direction in composition. This should be easily resolved by taking a bit more time in the beginning stages of a piece–make sure the large values are right to begin with, have some inkling of the color scheme/time of day, have an idea in mind of what the finished piece will look like so I have something to shoot for. Peters and Waterman ( In Search Of Excellence , HarperBusiness), in their assessment of successful corporations, concludes that “the magic is simply getting the basics right” . This is true in painting also.
I’m apparently not one of these painters who can just start slapping on paint and then look for a direction to go; maybe if I were doing abstracts, maybe. Also, staying with the same piece day after day, can be detrimental to the outcome; I’m better off when I have several things going at once and switch off between them, giving my eye time to refresh from an image.
Sometimes a scene gives you almost everything; it’s right in front of you waiting to be painted. Many times though, it’s not, and so I shouldn’t expect to be able to just dive in with every piece. I like to say–sometimes a painting just falls from the brush but other times it must be scraped off; maybe I should add–and sometimes it goes the way of the Dodo.
Late In The Day (destroyed) 11×14 oil on canvas MTMcClanahan
Drawing Of A Dodo 17th century Dutch