One Way or Another

Oil and Cold Wax

Acrylic on repeat

One Way or Another….

In the words of the inimitable Debbie Harry.

Debbie Harry has cropped up a couple of times this week. Once in my Art Fluency Community which is my free Facebook group. As a bit of fun, I’d invited the group to suggest songs for a get-up-and-go Studio Playlist. And then again as a reference to this week’s insight and process from my studio.

Lost Connections

Monday and I am standing in front of four half-finished canvases hanging on my painting wall. There are lots of bright colours, drippy marks, and bold brush strokes. I block out some areas to bring back some white and negative space. Move to the work sitting on the counter, make a coffee, let the bigger pieces dry. Go back to them, add some very light glaze across the main shapes and let this dry. Work back into some of the key areas. Stand back. Repeat. And repeat. And repeat.

Damn, I’ve lost my connection to the feeling of these pieces. What were they about?

This was my frustrating experience on Monday where I found myself going around and around with about 10 paintings.  For most of the week previous I had been working on oil and cold wax paintings but I had decided to switch to some half-finished pieces in acrylic as I wanted to give the oil a few days to dry. However, I found myself really struggling with the work. These were paintings in a different style to the oil and cold wax. With oil and cold wax I slow down, It’s a more meditative approach because of the nature of the materials, the gentle mixing of soft unctuous rich paint. Different tools, scrapers, rollers and palette knives. Pushing, moving and layering paint.

With acrylic I am making expressive brush marks, dripping paint, using glazes, mixing media. I’ve had these acrylic paintings in process for while now, and I thought I’d made a breakthrough with them. But then Monday as I was trying one way then another (!) perhaps it wasn’t a breakthrough at all, as I ended up painting over large sections with white paint.

So what was going on?

I think the transition back to acrylic from oil was tricky which didn’t help because of the shift in surface from wood to canvas and the difference in how I use the materials. And the tools. But mainly I think I’ve lost my connection to what I was trying to say with these pieces. In fact I’m not sure where they do fit. Are they about the ideas I’m exploring in the oil and cold wax? A lighter softer palette, lots of structure and space, paring things back.

Or, are they about the ideas from something I have been exploring on raw canvas? Big expressive marks and gestures, lots of spontaneity.

Or something else again?

You see the problem, not only was I moving between different surfaces, materials and tools I was also bouncing between ideas and themes and I ended up confused, not knowing what I was doing. All of which led to a useful understanding of my working process.

It seems that when I am painting a series of work the materials, tools, and surface are inextricably linked to the emotion, thoughts, ideas and themes of the work.  They are a whole process and  I become deeply immersed in this and only find my way out by completing the paintings. It’s like being in the middle of an important conversation and interrupting myself mid-flow. I lose my place, forget what I was going to say and cannot find my way back.

So one way or another? Not working for me. It’s one way and only one way until I’ve said everything I want to say. And then I can move on.

Sound familiar? Is this something you’ve noticed for yourself? Please do hit reply I’d love to know.

Published by Lin Cheung

I am an artist and teacher and I love working with people to help them be more creative.

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