Work on the big painting has ground to a halt. First, it was the series of thunderstorms that made it difficult to work in a garage where the only light comes from the open garage door which can't be opened because the rain is wailing. Then it was the set-up - working on a 4' x 5' canvas on a hard cement floor covered with a plastic dropcloth is not optimal. The plastic bunches up and makes unexpected lines in the paint - not always a bad thing, but mostly annoying. The whole thing slides around and the plastic sticks to my sweat-covered self. (It is August in New Jersey.) The cement hurts my knees. Who knew knee-pads were crucial painting gear?
But after a few days away from the painting, I figured out the real problem was the feeling that I was painting a request. K wanted something that would "go with" the greenish-khaki of the office decor and didn't want anything remotely representative. "Think Rothko - just colors." I don't do Rothko, but I gave it a go. After a few days of painting what I had was a swirl of completely undistinguished blues and greens, with a few accents of burnt sienna and yellow ochre. Pretty colors, totally uninspiring.
Something that was, maybe not inspiring me, but nibbling at me: the collage I'd done a couple of months ago and blogged about here. It came about after some friends and I posted childhood pictures of ourselves. Comments one of my friends made inspired me to make a copy of the picture, alter it with some screen printing and writing, then build this collage around it. The process was totally different from anything I'd ever done, it was fun, I liked the result, and wanted to do more - but work and life intervened and I hadn't returned to it. Frustrated with the whopper, I decided that now was the time to do something else.
I'd been remembering a little scrap of a practice painting that I'd done over a year ago from a sketch of my face. Instead of going back to the childhood photos, I thought I'd start with that. I also wanted to work on a slightly larger scale so a 2' x 3' piece of hardboard became the backing for the collage. Grubbing through my test pieces and rejected paintings, I came up with a few more to rip into strips, but the textures and colors weren't exactly right. Whatever. I wanted to get started and figured I'd fix it later.
After much ripping, pasting, and moving around, I had the hardboard covered. It wasn't coming together in the way the first one had though: too many different colors and textures (aka, whatever bites me in the butt). So, I pulled out the stencils and added some texture that covered several pieces at a time. More unified, but too busy. I left it for a couple of days and when I looked at it with fresher eyes, I thought the problem was that there was no sense to the color arrangement. One of the things I like about the first collage is the color progression from dark red-brown to blue-yellow, to the sepia of the photo. The colors of the canvas strips in the new piece weren't organized as coherently. Well, that's what paint's for, so I added some washes over some of the canvas strips to unify their colors. I think it's done, at least for now.