Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Introducing Eyes and Skies

Sky 14; 6x9 inches; watercolor on paper

From the moment I stumbled upon Duane Keiser's A Painting a Day blog in 2005, I've been toying with what it might be like to attempt such a thing for myself. Could I do it, WHY would I do it, what sort of work would I post to it, would it be fun, useful, a chore, a distraction from my other painting…? Finally, this Spring I had a flash about how I'd want to do it, and why. Committing to painting a few hours every day, most days every week if not every day, would surely be a great way to finally learn to integrate regular painting time into the demands of more bread-and-butter work. And maybe a good sustained bout of small-format, back-to-basics painting would be refreshing to my mostly improvisatory and nonfigurative current work, in which each piece was lately feeling increasingly isolated from all the preceding work. It might be a way to reconnect both imaginatively and physically with the heady days when I first learned to handle watercolors in the early 1970s, when I'd launched a similar commitment to "paint a hundred little watercolors until I get it!" Back then, I'd focused on flowers against skies, throwing in an occasional face study; this time I'd focus on skies—I'd taken thousands of cloud photos in recent years—and throw in a face or a flower now and then. OK: Eyes and Skies… Could be good!

Eyes 2; 5x7 inches; watercolor on paper

So, I've been doing my little eyes and skies now for a month or so and I love everything about it. It's that most precious thing for a painter: A self-sustaining, ever expanding idea that launches a series of paintings, and feels stronger and more interesting with each new piece; what could be better? And as with the few other such ideas that I've had in 40+ years of painting, the proof of its power and utility is the way the original narrow impulse starts to absorb and embrace wider impulses both expressed and unexpressed, discovered and only sensed, without losing clarity, adding steam as it rolls you along…

Sky 15; 6.25x9.5 inches; watercolor on paper

I'm particularly enjoying how my original impulse to do studies from reference material has expanded so naturally into pure improvisation, which inspires yet more referenced work; it's a jolly little bicycle, each downward push propelling the project into wider territory: new colors, tools, styles, inspirations, methods.

And so now, it's time to take the next step: Out of the playground and off onto the road; I wonder what I'll see and who I'll meet—you, perhaps? Ride with me for a while, if you like… Tomorrow, then?

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