As a painter, I must “hold space” for a work from the first moments of standing before my subject, gathering information and feeling my way into the painting, right up until the final brushstroke that says – done! It is not a linear process but rather a series of sparse markers that move in and out of my awareness. The large “Sea and Shore” landscape oil painting is a good example of this.
Yes, there are methods and tools, that are picked up and put down as needed, but much of the work of painting is done without what we understand as “knowing.” For me, it is more of an exploration or a trying out of things until something “seems and feels right”.
How do you DO that!? This is a question that is frequently asked in relation to viewers finding themselves inside one of my paintings – such as smelling the sea or feeling the warmth of the sun on their back. So, I will try to explain….
At this point, the process of painting is kind of like driving a race car for me. You know how you don’t usually need to think about driving to the corner store unless there is something really unusual, like a fallen tree on the road or you have sprained your wrist and you must be careful when you are shifting gears? When we have been driving for years, we can usually just navigate to where we want to go and not think too much about steering, breaking, obeying the speed limit or putting on our turn signal and such. We have become accustom to monitoring all the various aspects of being able to drive successfully from one place to another. Well, painting wet-into-wet is a little like developing the skills of an endurance race car driver. One must plan ahead, be quick, precise, accurate and have extensive training while practice regularly… and the painting still might crash and burn! The painter must be courageous, step into the risk of failure, and use her split-second decision-making skills to save the painting and possibly even herself. And when it works, then it is magic! Then you can hear the waves, smell the sea or feel the breeze coming across the landscape.
As you may guess, the intention for a work must be clear and yet held lightly as I pick up the brushes and proceeds into the unexpected. The unknowns can parallelize painters or have them work safely so that they make no mistakes or only use approaches that are already familiar. The results when this happens are often dismal. To successfully paint a vibrant work, using all of our sensory information, that then comes alive on a canvas, means being willing to risk – everything! I must confront what is raw and uncomfortable within myself before the inner beauty of the landscape can become visible on the canvas. There are no shortcuts. There are no easy wins or formulas. But there are practices, intentions and mark-making that will start us out in the right direction. From there, we must be willing to step beyond what we already know. Painters must be ready to figuratively die on a canvas before the painting can fully live.
That said, and out of the way, let’s have a look and see what happened with “Sea and Shore” since the last post. Sometimes it is easier to see in black and white.
Sometimes, we just want to look at the work from a different angle. Yes, it was dinner on the deck for several days while the painted edges are left to dry. 😉
Sometimes, we just want to explore and trace the lines of movement. Though I was visually aware of my composition choice and I had knowingly chose the structure of the spiral, it was only after the painting was completed that I roughly traced it out over top of an image – revealing one of its secrets.
Then comes the final test. The painting is hung on the gallery wall for the viewer to scrutinize and ponder.
The painting must now stand on its own. It is separate from the painter and has its own relationships to build, its own stories to tell and its own journeys to take. The painter, after all, is only a temporary custodian once the work is completed. The painter’s efforts tend to dissolve somehow once the work is seen through the eyes of the viewer. It is the viewer who is now in first-relationship with the work – not, the painter. If there is a connection at all, after this, to the painter, it is only by curiosity and the invitation of the viewer. Maybe we can understand it better this way – the painting itself believes it was born of its own freewill and is unaware of the painter, the paint, the brush marks, the canvas or even its supporting frame. It is not that the painting is unappreciative of its reason for existing, it is just that the painting has know way of knowing. The painting just trusts that it has always existed. Therefore, the painter has a sacred obligation to never break this trust by inserting themselves prominently into the work – because if they do, the magic of the painting might be broken. The work itself must always lead.
The large “Sea and Shore” landscape painting hangs for one-day-only in the gallery before it is scooped up by an art collector.
SOLD! Sea and Shore – 36 x 48 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch.
And there it goes…. off on an adventure of its own, hopefully keeping its magic for several hundred years to come.
Thank you for sharing its journey into the world that has been captured in these three recent posts.
What risks do you take so that your creations can fully live?
PART 1 “Sea and Shore – A beginning” can be viewed HERE.
PART 2 “Building Up Paint” is now posted HERE.
© 2018 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.
Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.
Creative Potager – Visit with painter and photographer Terrill Welch
From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada
For gallery and purchase information about Terrill’s photographs and paintings go to http://terrillwelchartist.com