|Brett Whiteley's ghost, oil on canvas,|
This portrait was painted in the dark.
Because I haven't been able to paint for months. I've been daunted by the blank page. A blank canvas seems a mountain i just cannot climb. Have i simply run out of ideas? Motivation? Bravado?
It is as if i have been as if frozen, trapped in a torpor, paralysed by self-doubt. No, it's not that i didn't have ideas or desire to work. It's that i was intimidated by the task. The responsibility of producing a 'good' painting was too great.
And along comes fellow post-grad student, Bec, who is exploring the notion of liberation from self-critical thinking during the process of painting. She is doing this through contour drawing and painting while looking away from the canvas. She has tried painting in low light as a gambit. So after we talked about, i was fired up enough to give it a try.
The process went as follows. After setting up the canvas and squeezing some Titanium white, Ultra Blue, Prussian blue, Cerulean, Viridian, Lemon Yellow and Indian Red onto a white plastic picnic plate (my disposable palettes), i went and turned out the lights in my studio. I found my way back to the easel with a torch, picked up palette and brush, and turned off the torch. I could just make out the shape the canvas in the gloom. When i looked at my palette, all the colours had turned to globs of black and grey.
I set to work to paint Brett Whiteley's features from recollection. I also carried a query in my head re Brett post postmortem. What might the ghost of Brett look like? Could i touch his presence in dark?
I guesstimated where the bits should be located on the canvas. Very quickly the blobs of black and grey on my plastic plate merged to become a dog's breakfast of vague grays. I pressed on. I could only gauge how loaded the brush was by the resistance as bristle dragged through paint, the weight at the business end as i lifted it to canvas. Sometimes i heard a splat as excess flipped off and smacked onto the canvas as i worked in haste. Whatever image was emerging in the dark, i was not responsible. I stabbed and slashed and squiggled. And then stopped to turn on the light.
Surprise. An image that had a rawness about it. Non-realist. Expressive. Parts were satisfying. Other parts silly or dead. The whole didn't hang together. So i poured on some gum turps to let osmosis fill in the gaps. A mistake, in hindsight. It killed off much of the immediacy and freshness.
But for better or worse, here it is, warts and all.
Art or a mess, interesting or silly, i don't care.
It's what happened in the dark.
I've called it Brett Whiteley's ghost. A visitation in my darkness.
Hopefully it will kick-start some deliberate work in coming weeks.
In the meantime, i've started some art-related 'busywork'. I've stared a Pinterest blog HERE. It enables me to gather together drawings and paintings i like and are influential on my own creative practice. It enables me to share my passions and my work among a growing online art community. If you too have an art Pinterest board i'd love to connect up!