Last week I mentioned the occasional magic of a painting that seems to complete itself, all in one session (process known as “premier coup” or first strike), and contrasted that happy event to my more common process of reworking and fussing over a painting. Well, Tuesday morning, in the course of my regular Tuesday Life Group, magic struck. The result is above.
I long to be able to paint the way John Singer Sargent did. I don’t mean I want to make paintings that resemble Sargent’s (although I would not turn down such a precious gift); rather I want to be able to place a brush stroke with confidence in just the exact right place for it, and not have to amend the color or value. Sargent worked like a fiend for many years in order to attain such apparently confident perfection. But even after he achieved the pinnacle of his brilliance, he continued to practice and try out options before putting paint to surface. I have heard he sometimes restarted a portrait many (like, 20!) times before finding satisfaction. So how can I , who have been painting for only six years, and painting people for maybe half that period, complain that about having to try this color, then try that value, and just generally operating in a constant state of experimentation? Who do I think I am, anyway? Not John Singer Sargent.
In “The Artist’s Studio”, however, I got a lot of strokes right, plus, perhaps most importantly, an interesting composition. Even the brashness of the spots where the canvas is showing through seems to bear witness to my energy, and pleasure.
In the past, I would have heralded such an accomplishment by proclaiming I had achieved a Breakthrough in my Painter’s Progress (the title of this blog, you know). I would have expected every painting after the Breakthrough painting to follow in a trajectory of improvement because some kind of veil of ignorance had been lifted–I had seen the light, I knew where to go–finally. But of course, the trajectory operates more like the stock market, up, up, and . . . down. I think of it now as a sticky curtain. You can push through with great effort, glimpse the other side, once in a while even make some kind of a mark on the other side, but you never quite break contact with that sticky curtain on the other side. You get sucked back. Well, I get sucked back.
So I wasn’t surprised when the glow created by “In an Artist’s Studio,” only lasted until Sunday, when I sat down to paint, within three hours, another painting from life. The Sunday painting is much more accomplished that what I was doing a year ago, even six months ago, and I consider it a well done exercise. I am proud of it, proud of my progress. But glowing? No.
Aline Lotter is currently exhibiting:
at the Hatfield Gallery in Manchester; at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett; at the Library Arts Center in Newport; and at her studio by appointment.
Link to website: www.paintingsbyaline.com