The Unfolding Painting

motorcyclist on helmet visor (in process)

I continue to paint portraits on cast off objects (see prior posts). My current portrait reminds me at every step of the way why I paint, and why I am an artist. For this portrait. a helmet visor was submitted and then a snapshot of the submitter’s husband on a motorcycle….I immediately asked if a “better” photo of the man was not available. I had in mind a photo of his face, as this was supposed to be a portrait of him that I was painting. His wife paid lip service to possibly being able to supply something else, but then could not come through as she explained to me that “He doesn’t photograph very well” and “he really liked this photo of himself on the motorcycle”. I resigned myself to dealing with the photo.

Lo and behold, as soon as I positioned my first brush stroke on the visor, I began experiencing a natural unfolding of “something meant to be”. One of those paintings where there is no false move, every thing just falls into place. This is not to say that I didn’t overshoot here or there and need to scrape away an errant bit of paint here and there, as one of the beautiful aspects of painting on found objects is the balance of painting versus unadulterated found object. In other words, there is not “painting over” an errant brushstroke as there would be on a traditional painting on canvas….I must remove errant brush strokes so as to allow the object underneath to show unimpaired. I’m always hoping that the final effect is somewhat akin to ink contour drawings by Matisse…no “mistakes”.

So this “natural unfolding” resulted through accepting someone else’s concept for the painting. It is expanding my sense of what this project is: the initial idea of this project was to encourage local residents in my area to identify “cast off objects” as potential painting surfaces, but now I see that the project is also about allowing me to let go of control and experience some accidental juxtapositions….this is so central to the experience of painting anyway; to be both directive in the sense of applying the paint to the surface, but simultaneously as receptive as possible to the painting as it unfolds. The painter must perform like a bus driver…steering the huge bus, but stopping for traffic lights, and delicately maneuvering around careless pedestrians, and other swerving vehicles.

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