What a difference a week makes. The new project is steadily inching forward, without fuss. Covering more area than usual means larger blocks of time must be allotted for each work session, but more is accomplished at the end of each day. I can see where the piece is headed and feel good about doing something so decidedly different from what I’ve been doing lately. The dogs will probably take at least one week a piece and, given my skill level, will be the hardest part of the project. I’m taking the weekend off to give the hands a rest and think things over.
The hardest part of any project is having the fortitude to start at all. Before lift-off, the mind is fearful of failure and the body longs to be left alone. After lift-off, things unfold quietly and naturally according to the internal logic of the project itself. Nothing matters except for the nuts and bolts grunt work of working the idea through.
I almost always transfer imagery from the sketch to the board via home-made carbon paper. This means covering the entire back of the original drawing with pencil, once for each diagonal and once more up and down.
On a piece as big as this (30″x36″), just making the carbon is a lot of work. Sometimes I fall in love with this part though. If I were strictly process oriented, I might stop right here and frame the thing up.
Once the pencil carbon is finished, I tape the sketch to the board and go over every line with a ballpoint pen, rendering a perfect copy of the original.
Pencil marks routinely smudge and mix with paint in unpleasant ways, so sealing the graphite, though laborious, saves time in the end. Everything must be gone over one more time with either black paint and a fine brush, or an oil enamel Sharpie pen. If anyone tries this method, be sure to stick to oil enamel. Other pens bleed into the paint, causing untold headaches.
Here is the finished sketch-on-board with a bit of progress on the background.
Just as mutations over time lead to the evolution of a species, subtle changes occur each time an image is copied. I tried giving the trees and grass a more naturalistic treatment, to see as the camera sees, but am incapable of this. Instead, the background looks like dyed fabric and the grass is a monolithic, psychedelic shimmering carpet of green. Allowing the entire depth of field to be in sharp focus automatically shifts a piece into interesting philosophical territory. Without a distorting lens, only a hyper awareness of every single point remains. I’ve only just begun the project and already it’s going its own way. We have lift-off.
For the first time ever, I’ve found myself empty of both vision and will. For the last few weeks, there’s been a huge hole in my life where art used to be. A few ideas have wafted up but nothing engaging enough to be worth the trouble. I’ve been bored, listless and lazy.
In the absence of inspiration, I’ve decided to push on and just do something. A friend posted a picture of his wife on Facebook a while back and I’m using it as inspiration for a new project. Here is the initial sketch for “Leopard Coat With Dogs.”
This is another big (for me) painting and will most likely showcase all my weaknesses as a painter, but so be it. Maybe I’ve just gotten used to the grid-organized pieces I’ve done lately but to heck with it. Why stay blocked when you can do something (anything!) to blast free?