I’ve been painting a lot over the last four weeks, getting ready for a show in August. Most people think that an artist picks up a brush, dips it into paint and a picture magically appears. Oh that it were so!
If you paint on canvas, that might come fairly close to the reality (though stretching, sizing, and priming might take a few days unless one buys canvas pre-mounted and primed; and of course, this says nothing about the thought process that goes into deciding what to paint, which sometimes takes years), but in my case the process is a bit more involved.
I paint on hardboard that I buy from Home Depot. Nothing fancy. It has a nice smooth surface and works well for my highly-textured images. When I get the 2′ x 4′ sheets home, I have to decide what size paintings I’m going to do. I usually cut the larger sheets into smaller sizes, glue blocks for hanging on the back, prime the pieces with latex, apply drywall mesh and joint compound to create texture, shape the compound, and when that is dry, apply a couple of coats of gesso. Then, I’m ready to paint.
I paint with acrylic using a brush and wet rags. While the first several steps take three or four days, I can usually complete a painting in about one to two hours, depending upon the size. I paint quickly, but a painting doesn’t happen quickly. As I said before, the thought process takes much longer. I am not a realist painter, by any stretch of the imagination. If you see something in my painting that you recognize, it is something that you have created in your mind, not something that I intended for you to see. My technique is very much “stream-of-consciousness,” perhaps even Surrealist, and the inspiration for a painting may come from a poem, piece of music, book I’ve been reading, a TV advertisement, a dream, something that someone says in passing…
Right now, I’m working from the inspiration of the poetry of Octavio Paz, the great Mexican poet, diplomat, teacher, Nobel Laureate. Seven years ago, I started a series based on the stanzas of the poem “Salamander.” So far, I’ve completed twelve of the twenty pieces and hope to finish the rest in the next couple of years. I’ve also done paintings based on about a dozen other poems by Paz.
One of these days, another inspiration will arise and I might be doing paintings based on “Gilligan’s Island” or “The Andy Griffith Show.” Now, that will truly be Surreal.
Here’s a look at the process I use and a few new paintings.
Panel with hanging blocks applied
Panel being primed. Yes, I use house paint.
A couple of panels primed.
Next, I apply drywall mesh to provide a surface for the joint compound to grab on to.
A panel with joint compound applied and shaped.
A panel that has been gessoed.
A finished piece. This one is called “Salamander 4 – Yellow claw”
Another finished piece. “Salamander 15 – Solar Arrow”
“Salamander 19 – Red word of beginning”