Friday, October 30, 2009

37. a new medium

A friend suggested I try turpentine and graphite, so last night I did. The first result is above – a little messy, and there are respects in which I think it’s clear I had no idea what I was doing, but I record it here because it will be fun, if I continue with the turps, to monitor progress or regress. And sometimes art is like apartment hunting: you get luckier your first time out than you ever will again.

But what a big fan I am of changing medium, of starting out at the beginning again. It’s one of the downsides of growing older, is you get fewer and fewer opportunities to be an idiot, and to experience the slow-release joy -- and the instruction -- that comes from practicing at something and improving. No matter what you do for a living, once you’ve settled on your brushes, you’ll eventually achieve the basic level of technical mastery that the fates and the muses have allotted you, and it becomes nearly impossible to gauge progress one way or another. You are who you are.

But change your medium – try screenplays, try fairy tales, try turps and graphite -- and you quickly rediscover the electric charge that comes from feeling lost and groping, but also the feeling that tomorrow when you return, you will be better.

My mother is a woodcut artist. Over the years and decades she has developed a very personal and particular technique that give her woodcuts a quality that, to be honest, you will not find anywhere else. About twelve years ago, she took up oil painting. She slung herself back to the beginning, and I’m sure it was a good thing for all the reasons mentioned. The unexpected benefit, however, was that when she started oil painting, her woodcuts took off. It was as if all the creativity and inspiration she had to put on hold just to acquaint herself with the basics of her new medium got funneled back into her native soil, the woodcuts, which just started exploding with life and imagination.

1 comment:

  1. In the critique, I should have placed more emphasis on merely observing that the limited tonal scale is necessary in this piece to add a classical look and a favored form of expression.
    It isn't necessary to always use the whole tonal range.
    This is a more effective range to use to indicate this model's quiet grace and unpretentious everyday beauty.
    I agree that it is so important to keep changing up things. And one teacher's 'get into trouble as soon as you can' still is a learning tool for solving problems.
    Keep up the good work!!