Knowing when to stop is one of the most difficult parts of painting for me. But when I know it, I know it, and it is practically euphoric. My eyes get wide, and I’ll say to myself (or blurt out it out), “That’s it.” And I literally take a step back, eye it up and down, and put down the brush. I might go back and touch up a little something technical that I happen to notice later, but that’s different than recognizing the completeness of a painting. (Conversely, when I make the wrong brushstroke that messes up an entire part my eyes get wide and I say, “Oh f***.”)
It can be an all-over something or just a small passage on the canvas that’s niggling at you. On Black Bikini, I spent, oh, four hours total painting the mouth. I repainted it a dozen times. It’s the teeth that are so difficult. Paint them in shadow and they can look just dirty. Paint them too realistic and they look like Chiclets; too impressionistic and they look like a mouth guard or chewed food. At the AIC this week I sought examples to copy and found my lot in John Currin. Many of his figures have open, expressionistic mouths, and I was delighted to find Stamford after Brunch (detail pictured here) with THREE chatty mouths on one canvas.
After a few weeks away from le Bikini, I went back today to try again, and after an hour and a half I put down the brush after one small brushstroke on what I believe is an incisor. I approached this difficulty as a technique to improve upon. In the past I would have gotten it good enough and moved on, calling it finished but knowing it wasn't complete. So, while those four hours of mouth painting were frustrating, I'm glad that I took that time to look and re-look and look again, paying attention to what worked and what didn't.
Later is what?
After settling into various desk jobs, I always said I'd get back to painting later in life, and later is now. Again means that I tried once before. I decided to write about my painting endeavor, too, as a learning tool, an accountability tool, and to stay sharp in case I have to go back to a desk job. Again.
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