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When Little Things Get Big

Succulents with Neon Pot

It has been what has felt like weeks (OKAY, it was) since I have worked on my current painting, which is creatively named, "Succulents with Neon Yellow Pot". Proper naming aside, I've put this guy off for days. I won't say how many.

Why do we, as artists procrastinate so much at the very end? I've thought about this a lot since I've struggled heavily with finishing this piece. For starters, endings are HARD. When you finish a painting, that means that you are happy with the way it looks now, as if there is not much more you can do with your painting. And, who among us says that?

Instead, the dialog is usually something like "It was time, so I had to be finished." or... "but I'm going to go back maybe after the show to fine tune a few things", or "I'm still not totally happy with... (you fill in the blank)."

In my case, generally speaking, this painting was a test for myself, although I may not have known this until the end. I started with a massive still life in canvas of succulents, and moved to a smaller piece on wood. My rationalization was that I wanted to be able to put more technical effort into a smaller piece and felt smaller was more manageable.

I'm not sure if it's a big secret here, that I classify my work as 'Contemporary Realism', yet I personally feel it is not very representational. I intentionally leave a lot of abstract marks and elements which can still be seen in the end. Components of my painting, that I originally created in the initial, more carefree, stages sit among the parts that are tightly rendered. My work is really Abstract Representational, rather than Strict Representational.

With these plants, and the amount of time it took to work this painting to the 'sort of' end, the plants and their leaves changed so much, it was near impossible to paint them like they originally were. I feel in the end, I did my best to capture the general feeling. You can see at the end of one of the loopy strands that there is a huge leaf, which seems out of place. I'm still not sure if that works, or doesn't or if anyone would really care.

I knew I was beyond time to be done with it TODAY. I was at this point where I sat exasperated for two hours just sighing and painting. I purchased about 10 - 15 new super small sized brushes, which are all completely shot, along with all my older ones. So, where do you draw the line? The thought occurred to me to just call it quits, and leave it like it was. I almost gave up yesterday, when I was equally frustrated and the thought crossed my mind that maybe I didn't have it in me on February 27th. And, yet I kept going. One of the mistakes I kept making was not leaving enough time to work everything up to completion all at once. So, I would only have 1 to 1 1/2 hours to work up the end, and I wasn't getting to the end which only meant that I'd have to start over the next session.

Technically, what I am talking about if you can reference the piece is that in painting the vine like, loopy plant, I had to also paint the violet pot. The violet pot was a combination of Aliz. Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Raw Umber, some Yellow Ochre in spots, and white mixed in very sparingly to decrease the 'shine' of the medium. (This was a hard color to achieve for me)

In other words, the vine leaves, had to be worked with the pot. The pot had to be worked with the background. And the surface that the violet pot is on, had to be worked as well. This was one of Victor Wangs rules : whatever you are working on in the foreground must be worked with the background, as color is all relative. Therefore, I was working on at least 5 different 'objects' all at once. (The vine succulent, the violet pot, the shadow on the violet pot, the light violet surface, and the shadow of the vine succulent)

This is where for the last several sessions the little leaves became big. They were big in my mind, and in blocking the entire painting from coming to completion. And yet, they are there for a reason. Whether I created them in my conscious or unconscious state, (and I'm not going to pretend I had it all planned out) these small leaf forms create an undulating softness, along with its shadow that form a striking contrast in color to the neon pot. It's the little things that make a whole painting great.

* Photo is of my painting before final completion.

** Victor Wang : favorite Art Professor on Technique from Fontbonne University.