The solstice. The longest day of the year and the “official” beginning of summer. In this neck of the woods, summer is in full force and we’re firmly ensconced in triple digit temperatures, with sun, sun and more sun. I’ve an easy truce with the heat, finding a simple routine best. Early morning hikes with the cattle dog, late afternoon cocktails with the girlfriend, and in between . . . a languid approach to the day . . . and when it does seem a bit much . . . we do have our strategies . . . a trip to the high country! And so it goes. This past week, we spent a couple of days up in Flagstaff, visiting friends, doing a bit of climbing and enjoying the cool mountain air. As an added bonus, our young Molly had the pleasure to be schooled in the finer arts of socialization by Alta and Kenai. (Although I think Alta and Kenai found Molly’s exuberance mostly an annoyance and their patience a sign of what great pups they are!)
Just two weeks ago I wrote about the last mark being the most difficult one to make, and once again, I’m finding it all too true. Case in point . . . a painting I’ve featured in two posts, most recently on Tuesday May 31st. It’s a painting I’ve thought certain was complete . . . but on further review . . . wasn’t. At times it feels like I spend an inordinate amount of energy just looking at my canvasses, compared to when I’m actually doing something to them, but investing the time in looking as a precursor to the doing, seems to work well for me. Doesn’t make the last mark any easier, but it does make me aware of its necessity.
I find things. Pieces of rusty metal, the odd machine part, very round rocks, and colored shards of glass. Wood boxes, dull once sharp tools, strips of patterned fabric faded and torn, and bones bleached white. Random tree parts, broken toys, tin cans with bullet holes, and forgotten placards of failed campaigns. The whatever and the what not, clutter my studio in disorganized happenstance and I wouldn’t have it any other way. These are my accidental talismans, structures assembled by passing fancy that often find their way into my imagination and back out onto canvas.
I do think of my paintings as being constructed, built piece by piece. Line supported by shape, supported by color, supported by line . . . so intertwined one can not possibly exist without the other. What’s always attracted me to painting is the ability for spontaneity, put it down . . . or take it off. An instantaneous process that instills a certain attitude of nothing to lose, a fearlessness that pushes the work relentlessly forward.
I find the easiest mark to make is the first one. It’s irrelevant. Yes, it will point to a direction, set a pitch, hint at a tone, and suggest an interpretation, but hours, days, weeks on weeks deep into a canvas, those first scribbles, however well-intentioned, planned out, and seemingly infused with the potency of a first love . . . are just memories embraced with a certain nostalgia best reflected on as a passing fancy. It’s the business at hand, as playful and effortless as I strive to make it seem, which gloriously guides me, leading toward the precipice of the very last mark to be made . . . that’s the nagging voice keeping me ever vigilant. When is enough, really enough? And each and every paintings comes to fruition with a quietly whispered benediction of thanks, for the clarity of knowing when to stop.
And so it goes . . . a new stack of stretchers awaiting the easiest mark . . . the canvas above, in six views toward the hardest mark . . . and those finalized in the knowing when.