This little painting is my way of working out the kinks, technically and otherwise, in a larger painting that’s going to a paying customer (the commissioner). It’s where I can relax and have fun and make mistakes with reckless abandon. And sometimes the mistakes turn out to be in the right direction. Sometimes it’s a good idea not to overthink it too much. I repeat again what Gustave Moreau said, Art does not live by will alone; everything depends on docile submission to the inrush of the unconcious. I’m not sure how much absinthe he’d had by then, but I believe he’s right, up to a point. At some point the conscious mind should intervene and give a bit of direction. Or should it? Discuss among yourselves. See here for further enlightening instruction, but come right back.
So there I was, fussing and tightening up all those gray-edged black feathers (it’s really a beautiful pattern, but after awhile it was all you saw). My forest was vanishing under all the trees, the overall form (and that nice negative shape) was getting buried in detail. I suddenly saw this, grabbed a fat flat and started scooping darks at random off the palette. Big blobs of raw umber, ultramarine blue, burnt sienna, and small swipes of light gray mixes that got in the way of the brush ended up on the swan. My purpose was to go back to the negative shape and try again, but something unexpected happened. The paint landed in a flurry of brushwork, unintended and unconscious, but when I stepped back the swan form had blossomed into positive shape. Nice edges, interesting sweeps of shape, interplays of warm and cool. I couldn’t have planned it better. And so I washed out the brushes, turned off the light, and went to make dinner. I know when one shouldn’t intervene with a good session of submission to the inrush of the unconscious.
The Black Swan Theory strikes again!
Speaking of highly conscious minds, Bill of the Birds has given me a mention on his very excellent blog. As Editor of Bird Watcher’s Digest, he’s been an enthusiastic supporter and celebrator (is someone who celebrates called a celebrity?) of everything-bird-and-bird-art-related, including bird artists. BWD is one of the very few magazines today using commissioned illustrations. They use plenty of great photos, but every cover is a work of art, and there’s plenty of fine art between the covers. Oh, and Bill’s got a podcast now, filled with entertaining interviews and discussions with top birders. Yay, Bill and Bird Watcher’s Digest!