I used to think speed is important in art making. Speed relates to spontaneity–some say–and spontaneity guarantees authenticity, if not creativity. While spontaneity is important in art making, it’s not fundamental. Even if you insist that spontaneity is essential, you can’t make the same claim for speed. Speed is simply irrelevant.
Another important idea for me is ‘paint what you see;’ to address the present. While this idea, like spontaneity, is not fundamental, it’s fertile and orients one in the right direction. But confining oneself to the present is too limiting, if not impossible. Does the present exist?
While working on these two paintings today, I thought about a video I saw recently. The video followed an artist as she went about her normal routine. She was going to do a painting–start to finish–during the course of the day, and it was all going to be taped. She made a lot of claims about how important it was to finish a painting quickly. In her view, only inauthentic artists take longer than a single day to finish a painting. She also implied that anything worth painting can be accomplished in a single day. She was adamant about these points and proud of her discipline.
She filled her van with her gear and started off. She drove into the country, upstate New York perhaps, and spent a lot of time looking for a spot. Finally, she parked under an overpass and began setting up. She had a lot of gear including a big beach umbrella. I expected her to setup before a verdant summertime landscape. Instead, she placed her easel directly in front of the overpass wall. Graffiti of a clock face on the wall was her subject. Did she drive into the country with all her paraphernalia for this?
She worked on the painting all day, only stopping briefly for lunch. It was hot and as the day progressed, she became increasingly frustrated. Finally, she dropped her brush and turning toward the camera she started to cry. The painting was a disaster, she said. I had to agree. I turned off the tape.
She was brave, I suppose, to let the videographer publish the video. Was the artist a young art school professor? In art schools, art is done effortlessly by the cool. In her world, perhaps, confronting nature, even with training wheels, is wildly dangerous.
Anyway, I don’t care about speed anymore but I did do the two small paintings in the photo today. I wanted to work-up the same subject several times. Both versions of Landscape with an Urn are oil, 20″ x 24″.