After weeks of minimal painting activity (during which I welcomed the birth of a son and experienced a busy Christmas season), my New Orleans-inspired canvas is nearing completion. I have entitled it “Ready-made Victims in Search of the Palace of Pleasure”, based on a couple of phrases from Eudora Welty’s short story “The Purple Hat”, which is a ghost story set in New Orleans. Using highly economical means, she captures a certain essence, a kind of fascinating seediness, associated with the city. I would like to do the same with this painting. It’s not about the supernatural, specifically, but I do hope a sense of the mystery of the place is portrayed, through the use of such devices as darkened doorways, imposing buildings, and unnatural juxtapositions of color.
Struggle is a necessary part of being a painter. Though I’ve always known this, it’s often forgotten. I’m not talking about struggle in the tormented, anguished loner sense, but in the technical sense. We can always be better painters. There’s always an achievement that is elusive, a gap between what our mind sees and what our hand does.
The sooner we can accept this struggle–or even embrace it–the more likely we will continue painting. And it’s not all about technique. After all, we’re artists and not merely craftsmen. Nevertheless, there is a vision our mind strives to project, and much of the time our technique feels inadequate. This is one of the more compelling reasons to spend hours in the studio, so a technique can be developed that is sufficient for our vision.
We have to be comfortable with this struggle. There are happy accidents, too–times when we surprise ourselves with a nearly effortless series of great brushstrokes. These happy accidents may help us along in our journey or make the burden of expression lighter, but if one is to continue painting, struggle will be a constant reality.