A few weeks ago I mentioned my newfound love for the work of Joan Snyder. Her paintings make me feel very special. I’m not sure why but something about the way paint is applied and mixed with elements of nature tugs at my soul. In my previous post “I Should Wonder” I talked about a piece I created that could be thought of as a study of her work. I find myself inspired by her more and more.
As I continued to look at more and more works of Snyder I noticed many of her paintings are on fabrics other than regular canvas – linen, for example, seems to be one used often. I decided I should experiment with different painting surfaces as well.
I created two more pieces inspired by Joan’s work on burlap for my Painting II final critique. Burlap is a tricky surface to work on. It is rough and coarse and really hard to spread paint across.
My first piece, titled “Its a Promise”, was very experimental. Trying to spread and blend paint on raw burlap was nearly impossible. I was mixing so much paint and it was all seeming to vanish every time I brushed it on the canvas. I grew more frustrated with every second but then had a huge, yet very simple, realization – Why continue to paint like this and get myself more annoyed when I already know it isn’t working? I had to try something new.
I began adding water to the surface and it helped a bit. But with a 20×10 canvas, it would still take forever. I grabbed my biggest brush, went over to the sink, and let water completely cover the burlap canvas. I kept the faucet on the entire time I worked through the mauve paint. It was finally spreading and blending.
Once my canvas was completely covered in the color I had loved so much about an hour before, I realized I hated it. The mauve was too close to the original brown of the burlap itself. All that work and it looked like I hadn’t done a single thing. Instead of getting frustrated again I decided to rummage through my bag and see what I could find. I pulled out collage pieces and found a few I liked. A large rose and a butterfly. Instead of applying real flowers, I opted for printed images.
The canvas went through so many different phases. There were times when I painted black lines all around it so that it looked like a patchwork quilt. There were times when I was scratching lime green and turquoise blue across it with my palette knife. Each time I hated it more.
I’m not sure how the finished piece even came about. I experimented with so many different colors and ended up with a palette very similar to the original mauve I started with. I’ve never used so many pastels in one painting before. I didn’t even know I was finished with it until I took a mindless break. I’d gone to the bathroom and come back to feel as though it was finally complete. The second I reentered the classroom and looked at my piece I felt it was finished. Many, many hours later! A weight fell off my shoulders.
The lesson learned here was that sometimes it is crucial to step away from your work and look at something else. Divert your attention even if just for a moment to clear your head. When my eyes locked on my piece upon reentering the classroom I was overcome by a sense of romance (probably due to the colors). I found an old book scrap in my bag, cut out the phrase “its a promise” and applied it for the finishing touches. Its a promise that I will never quit on any painting because of momentary negative feelings.
My second piece is much smaller, an 8×8. I titled it “Bouquet for a Friend”. This piece was created with flowers, twigs, etc. much like my first Joan inspired piece. I used metallic gold and bronze on the burlap. The browns were similar to the original burlap color again but this time it didn’t upset me. Since the paints were metallic I was okay that they were very subtle. Although hard to see in photographs, the canvas glitters in certain light due to the soft sparkle in these colors.
I knew I needed a pop of color however, so after sewing on mums and twigs with blue berries I added neon orange and pink and a deep but bright blue. These colors helped mimic the natural colors of the plants I applied.
Although these pieces are not necessarily paintings I’d consider my absolute best work, I love them for the learning experiences they provided me with. Working with a new material is challenging. These pieces are important to me because I branched out and persisted through the “just give up” thoughts I’d had floating around in my head.
These pieces are representations of tricky experiments. I can’t wait to experiment more.