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Present Imperfect

Alas, it was not meant to be.

Today I scrapped a canvas I’d been developing for about three weeks. It had developed considerably from the initial sketch, taking on a life of its own as the image emerged, and I reacted. I really loved the direction it was going so much that I overworked an element, even though it didn’t fit in this particular canvas. Eventually, although it had many good elements, I removed the canvas from the stretchers and binned it. Elements were fussy, and out of balance. In addition, I had manipulated the surface of the painting to a point where it just didn’t pass the grade for my quality control. I just can’t stand to produce an imperfect work.

It is certainly true that I shouldn’t have poured thinner over it and then torn it from its stretchers, but so much emotion goes into painting, and so much of your personality, that sometimes the pot boils over in frustration, a ship on stormy waters, especially after very long painting sessions, like today.

Looking at the photo I took just before I pushed it too far, I am reassured that it would  not have been a work I would have wanted to add to my portfolio, as it was. And there was no way I could have made the improvements I wanted to make, without basically painting over much of it.

Nevertheless, I will begin again tomorrow, this time with an improved composition, and with a new idea for what the focus of the painting will be. And it will be even better.

I have learned to accept that the path to improvement is strewn with failures. Trust me when I tell you that this doesn’t make the process any less exasperating, or painful. Allowing myself the space to fail is like allowing myself to take a full, deep breath.

It’s only Art, and there’s always tomorrow. I will begin again.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Miriam Climenhaga June 7, 2010, 9:58 pm

    So interesting. As I have been “getting to know you” recently I am fascinated with how different our approaches are to painting, yet somewhat the same. I can definitely understand perfectionism in that you, as an artist, know when something just isn’t quite right. I keep painting over things though…I wonder if I should attempt to scrap? I would think it might be quite freeing? From the viewpoint of just an appreciator of art though, I have to say that I really liked that painting before you scrapped it! Truly! It makes me curious what didn’t go right for you in it, but I know from personal experience, that THAT can be almost impossible to explain. You just know.

  • Alison June 7, 2010, 10:13 pm

    Thanks for your comment Miriam. For me, this one had reached a point where I couldn’t correct its faults without the surface becoming compromised. There was too much going on in it and the ‘business’ interfered with the larger composition, keeping your eye ‘static’ when you looked at it in certain places. I care a great deal about a simple, carefully elegant overall composition, and I felt I’d over worked it. The branches competed with the leaves in the background, which in turn competed with the sky.

    It is a flaw in me perhaps that I lost my temper with it, and, instead of setting it aside, I destroyed it. But then, canvasses that didn’t work are like corpses when I keep them in studio – I’d really rather bury them, grieve and move on. Overly dramatic comparison, perhaps… !

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