I've been thinking a good deal about process lately, so I thought I'd post this photo. It shows an early stage in the development of my recent painting Transect. Like many of my paintings, the image emerged from abstraction, and assumed solidity as it developed. [An earlier stage of the painting can be seen in the lower right corner of this photo]. During the early, non-representational phase of the painting, I established the basic composition and movement of the canvas. As I stirred the canvas with my brush, I let the content rise to the surface. I'd been working with earwig imagery for a while, but without bolting it firmly to a finished painting. After several false starts, the earwig joined with the anatomical diagram and marine engine illustration, and achieved stability.
I love the convergence of ideas as they fuse into a final painting. I try no to be overly intellectual during this process, as intuition and impulse tend to guide me more faithfully than rationality. Sometimes the final work succeeds, and sometimes it doesn't, but something of worth always transpires in the process.
While I frequently employ this experimental mode of painting, I also work in an executive, goal-oriented manner. As can be seen in The Persistence of Hope in the Face of Doubt, the initial study is almost identical to the finished painting. When working in this mode, I attempt to execute the painting in the most efficient manner possible, moving from sketch to underdrawing to final painting in the least number of moves. Paradoxically, the constraints imposed by a predetermined image allow me a greater freedom of expression. The preexisting framework liberates the act of painting from the concerns of composition. Like a jazz musician improvising on an existing song, I am able to paint with greater abandon, thinking only of the marks themselves.
Of course, these two methods are not incompatible. They are the right and left hands of painting, and I alternate between them as need dictates. In Transect, for example, the experimental gave way to the executive as the painting matured. Likewise, The Persistence of Hope required a great deal of experimentation during the endgame to resolve issues inherent in the initial plan's execution.
My goal, then, is to cultivate an open, intuitive experimental mode while honing my skills of execution. In the end, I hope to develop the ability to switch seamlessly between the two modes, striving always for increased facility and verisimilitude.