Original: oil on canvas.
Size: 110cm X 90cm
More on this painting in the journal CLICK HERE
– - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -
I often wonder about what it would be like to talk to one of the many renowned artists from years gone by. Particularly the ones who have inspired my own work in some way.
I’m really not convinced Pablo Picasso was as difficult a character as the media made him out to be. What sort of conversation would one have with someone like that if he was sitting having coffee in my studio? What would he have to say about my own work and what comments would he offer on the painting I was working on? I’m sure we could share a laugh or two…maybe about his poor English, maybe about my lousy coffee.
One sunny afternoon not that long ago, I started preparing a large canvas with a menagerie of oil colour and impasto medium using a spatula and large flat brush. I’d recently watched an autobiographical Jackson Pollock movie and was enjoying taking risks with several cans of paint, a dripping stick and some time on my hands. I always had in mind that eventually the whole canvas would get several washes of burnt sienna so wasn’t too concerned about the clash of colours that afternoon. I’d covered some of this ground with an earlier “Coltrane” painting although I was leaning more towards a Basquiat feel with that piece.
I really wasn’t thinking too much past the fact that I simply wanted to have a shot at creating an abstract work I would be pleased with. So I was quietly confident the burnt sienna wash the next morning would pull this whole thing together.
After highlighting shadow areas with burnt umber and rubbing back some sections of the painting with a rag, I was pleasantly surprised at how it was turning out, and left it at that on the easel for the next few days. I had four other paintings on the go at that stage (“Red Dust Girl” series) along with another new painting called “Nighthawk”. I would work on these intermittently and every now and again glance over at this new abstract sitting on the easel at the other end of the room.
You think about a lot of things when you are painting. Maybe painting is really pondering.. I don’t know. One thing is for sure though, you resolve a lot of things which aren’t always on the canvas in front of you. It’s when the magic happens . Greek mythology speaks of the “muse” as a source of inspiration, accessible by artists and generally restricted to artists.
The muse is not in itself a delusion or hallucination, but rather a myth to which writers, musicians, painters, and more are able to credit the conception of their art to. I agree that something unexplainable and mysterious does occur during the creative process and I am continually surprised at what can emerge from a blank canvas if you invite any possibility.
I’m not sure what it was that particular night but I started to see something missing in the abstract and it was bugging me. I continued painting one of the Red Dust Girl works and somewhere between the French jazz I was listening to and the second glass of merlot, I started thinking about Picasso. Something about this new abstract reminded me of his work but I didn’t know what.
The next few days I buried myself in two old Picasso hard backs I managed to borrow from a local library. One particular book focused on his charcoal work and I fell in love with his “Study for Circus Performers” so much that I cut one picture out and pasted it into my notebook (hopefully the librarian won’t find out). In the later stages of the painting I wanted to collage this onto the work but changed my mind. I’ve revisited Picasso’s work many times over the years and still find myself quite subjective about it. I love his early more figurative, labored pictures along with the pink and blue period but was surprised by his change in style to the abstract in later years.
I continued to work on the other paintings over the next few days and pondered again the Picasso connection with the abstract at the far end of the studio. One of the books I had borrowed was sitting on the painting stool next to it. From a portrait on the front cover Picasso seemed to be looking right back. It was an amusing moment and I was struck with the thought of what it would be like if someone like him “just dropped in”. It didn’t take me long to realize the missing piece for the painting, which is ironic considering the inclusion of the collaged piece of a jigsaw puzzle in the foreground of the finished work.
So Picasso finally dropped by. We talked. I painted.
Sometimes painting leads you into unexpected places, and as the saying goes “if you don’t know where you’re going.. any road will get you there”.
Another coffee Pablo?