Mixed Media Collage by Jo Ann Brown-Scott, copyright 2014
“Having a favourite colour is like having a favourite lung.” (Sara Genn)
The other day, in my official #1 blog post about the one year-long canvas project I have been challenged to start, I showed you photos of my process of laying down the base coat of paint in preparation for the start of it. (See my Archives for that and also for further explanation of this challenge.) Now I am about ready to make my first gesture of color on the ONE YEAR LONG CANVAS. I think I will save that simple action for Monday’s class, but already I am asking myself what color I will use, and what type of brushstroke. My instructor’s directions ask that I take plenty of time between sessions with the painting, stringing the process out for a year while resisting all temptation to stop at certain places where I believe it could be called a powerful, strong, finished composition and call it done. Instead I need to keep going, obviously sacrificing that good work and morphing it into something else by adding more paint.
Keep in mind that this painting will be an abstract expressionist style, but don’t be of the assumption that since it is not going to be a realistic painting that it is any less difficult to start….you need to understand that abstract art is realism to its artist – it is just not always recognizable as any particular thing.
Now actually, considering the 365-day duration of this project and all of the many layers of paint it will ultimately carry, you might say that the initial gesture is irrelevant. If you look at my mixed media painting above, there is absolutely no way you could identify the first brushstroke. It is buried. From a practical standpoint the first stroke is probably irrelevant, but from an inspirational, emotional and spiritual viewpoint it is monumental in importance. So it seems to me, anyway, being the person expected to be making the gesture.
I once knew an artist who just could not ever bring himself to make the first brushstroke on any pure white sheet of expensive Arches rough watercolor paper. At the time I was a watercolor student and I knew the fear of that moment well – feeling frozen as you stand in front of the paper looking at it, sometimes for 20 minutes or more, waiting for the thaw of your mind and your arm as you talk yourself down from being so intimidated that you cannot speak, think or create. My friend came to a crazy solution to his problem – he took the paper outside and placed it in the driveway and ran over it several times with his car. That was his method for “having his way with it” and showing it who was boss. Then he could begin. It brings to mind the terrifying scene in the film “Captain Phillips” where the Somali pirates have boarded the ship, made it to the Captain’s perch and the scary leader of them says to the Tom Hanks character who is the Captain , “Look at me. Look at me! I am the Captain now!”
You have to take charge at some unexpected and opportune moment and show that paper or canvas who is in charge. I believe even the art Buddha would approve of that action. Once that is done you can lean back a little and loosen up, apologize to it for being so aggressive, and carry on with a gentler touch. Because in the long haul, you have to be friends with your art.
Next installment comes after Monday’s class.