Deconstructing a painting (part four)


Go with the flow


When I went back to work the next day the movement felt choppy. It didn’t have the calligraphic flow across the surface I wanted. Where was the kink in the cable?

It seemed the three ‘figures’ in the middle weren’t doing their job, they weren’t moving the eye properly from left to right. So, reluctantly I replaced them with three new figures that had a solid identity but provided a rhythm that moved the viewer along.

Yes, now it was working….

But there were still unresolved problems. The legs for instance, what role were they playing? And the large backpack on the far right. Necessary? Working for me? Or working against me?





Too crowded. Too heavy. Lighten it up. Redesign number 5. Remove number 6. Lose the backpack.

My first impressions as my workday begins again.

I’m consciously fighting the urge to describe, to delineate, to explain. The entire surface must be a whole, one piece. It has to hit you at once, all together. Like a poem that baffles but also delights and intrigues. I don’t want the viewer to KNOW what they are looking at. I want them to ENJOY what they are looking at. Feel it before they understand it.

I like it.

Let it be….





Yeah right, ‘Let it be’….

I got stuck for 6 months.

I loved the surface I’d created, the mood, where it was going, but I couldn’t leave it there. It was too sketchy. The right side was unresolved.

So I looked at more photos, drawings, made new drawings until I finally found a way. But I was very unsure, hesitant.

Finally I removed and inserted the new figures and slowly I began to feel the whole once more. When I work on such a large piece I wonder if composing a symphony is something similar? How to hold on to a big idea when so many individual sections need to be completed and yet constantly relate back to that one idea?

At a certain point, if it goes well, I stop talking at the painting and begin to take dictation. The painting starts to inform you. I listened closely and finally I was done.

My now dear departed friend, the painter Ed Baynard and I were headed to breakfast together years ago on 57th street in New York and we happened to pass a newsstand where an article on the front page of the New York Times caught his eye: “Oh my God, Alice died.” He exclaimed. (referring to the American abstract painter Agnes Martin) “Did you know her?” I asked. “Yes, when I first arrived in New York I was her studio assistant” “Oh really? What was she like?” “She was very quiet and I didn’t dare question her about her painting although one day I screwed up my courage and did. I asked: ‘Alice, where do you get your inspiration from?’  She looked at me oddly, as if I sought an answer that didn’t need answering. ‘Well, I just do what the voices tell me to do!’ she replied.”

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