Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Kanvas Karma

There's a self-determination about a canvas that the artist cannot go against. It is like the grain in wood. It is a direction the canvas will take, and I am bound to work with it or ruin it.

Ruin means, simply, that I don't like the end result, or the progress, or the process required of me to engage this particular canvas. I have learned to tell which canvases will not take to my re-visions. It's my ultra-experimental canvases that balk at being reinvented.

I tried doing a plein air painting on one canvas, at midnight, with a full moon over our town. It was a great adventure. It was a lousy painting. The midnight painting itself was done over a cast-off painting I did inside a coffee mill, trying to capture the essence of the place... So it was already a do-over. My final revision was overpainting in rich blues with magenta blends on the surface. Later, I painted calligraphic strokes of fluorescent yellow and something else. My husband said it looked like a cocktail party. A loud one. I hung the canvas for a while, seeing if it would grow on me.

One veteran painter told me that the painting cannot be easily parted from its frame, that a marriage results which we do well to honor. The same can be said for the original painting and the canvas. Do-overs cause a multiple personality in the canvas that mirrors its deepest schizophrenia.

My latest do-over involved the experiment of gesso, then sharpie marker writing of poems, then an over-painting of whatever image I choose. I did two of these, intending to do more if they came out with a pleasing result. The first I tried with pastel in the image, got the proportions wrong, hung it for a while and watched people wince... and moved on to the second which inspired several others to paint. So, back to the first with gesso, and I intended to paint a "spear" to go with the painting of a "shield". The motivation was certainly contrived. I don't care for spears, weaponry, or such arts. I'm bigger on the defense arts. So, the spear went south on me just after the gesso and sculpting medium dried. I tried underpainting to give it a chance and it grew more hideous. It was, after all, just a do-over and it would not take on the mask I was hoping to impose.

Some of the paintings I'd like to do over are redeemed by time. If I can tuck them away for long enough, I see them in a new light. But most just find their way to the rubbish. There is nothing for it but to start afresh. It's the way of those canvases to find their homes with the mold sooner than others of their generation.