Some time ago, I told Marcy: “Every time I start a painting, I feel like I’m climbing onto a roller coaster I’ve never ridden before.”
But more and more I’m starting to understand my own painting process.
Now I feel more like I’m starting a road trip.
I don’t have a specific destination, but I know whether I’m headed north, south, east or west. I know how to start the car and shift the gears. In case of unexpected noises, I can open the hood and may be able to diagnose simple problems. And, in case of emergency, I have both a map in the side pocket and the phone number for Art “Triple A” service: 1-800-CALL MARCY.
I’ve noticed I learn different things about my own work depending on how I work – with instruction, alone or with other artists. I’ve been painting with two other artists at the Lafayette Studio for the last few weeks. I’ve starting thinking of us as the “cigarettes and scotch” girls because one day Marcy told one of my confreres (con-soeurs?), who was trying to achieve a Diebenkornesque landscape:
“Try looking at it with a cigarette and a scotch. That’s what all those guys used to do in the ‘50s and ‘60s.”
We mostly paint in the morning, so it’s more like Starbucks and croissants. But it’s good to work with others. And I understand more about my own work as I see how others work. In our critiques, I get assistance with what to do and I see how others think differently about what is right.
One time Marcy said that you’d know you were advancing as an artist when she advised a change and you, after due consideration, could say: “Thank you, but that would be a different painting.” I know that sometimes I make suggestions and my fellow artist thinks exactly that. “Thank you, but that would be one of your crazy, wild canvases…not one of mine.” And I do the same.
The giving of advice turns out to be as much about clarifying my own vision as helping others clarify theirs. I’ll really be getting good when I can ignore my own vision for somebody else’s work in favor of thinking more like they do. In the meantime, I’m learning something. I hope the other cigarette and scotch girls are also.