Sunday, April 19, 2009
Seeing the Start
Something happened yesterday in the studio that was, I think, a completely new experience for me. I've been thinking about painting some large pieces lately and buoyed by the imminent completion of The Constable Closet, I decided to start a 30 x 70 triptych this weekend. I filled up pages of my sketchbook with thumbnails and completed two underpaintings of pieces with a similar motif. I could see in my mind's eye what color harmony and effect I wanted and a general idea of the motif, but I still hadn't worked out the composition. I tend to work in squarer formats so composing this elongated horizontal was giving me fits. Plus, composing a triptych is arguably three times as challenging because each panel must stand on its own as well as support the whole.
So, when I went to the studio yesterday to start it, I still hadn't really settled on a composition. I thought I'd sketch some more and try to resolve it. I walked in and put the three panels up on my easel and moved the other two pieces I had already laid in to my work table. I looked at them, then looked at the panels and well, I "saw" the composition on the panels all laid out. I didn't think, I didn't conjure it up, I just saw it. It only lasted a few seconds, but I saw it.
I was taught to "see" the final work in my mind's eye and this is what I also encourage my students to do. But that exercise, at least to me, is more about the translation of the subject into paint-understanding what you want your finished painting to look like before you start- seeing the finish. This experience was more about process- more about "seeing the start". And I didn't "see" it in my mind's eye, I saw it on the panels. Or, maybe I just had one too many Diet Cokes.