Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Value of Repetition

For reasons I will contemplate on later, and maybe it was just my nature at the time, I was never known to sketch out a scene or plan a painting. Even further from my nature was to paint the same thing twice, let alone three or four times. 

Consequently, I learned on the first and final piece, and in all it’s glory, my struggle was clear and evident. Dull, overworked and muddy washes next to clear vibrant passages, areas wiped and repainted several times not relating to areas I refused to retouch because something magical had happened. I was never quite sure how the magic happened, how I had achieved that one stroke of genius, and knew with utmost certainty I was not going to have that happy accident again. 

In art school, my instructors would encourage a few sketches to “work out” my composition. That was painful. I didn’t like the look of the marks I made, they certainly didn’t inform me the way I thought they should.  Even after I got practiced at the sketch, I didn’t seem to translate it well. Sort of like the reading of a book and then watching the movie. Pencil to paint were too different for me to bridge. I just wanted to paint, or more to the point, wanted to paint better than I was. Fixed on the goal and not the process. 

I’m fortunate to have had tremendous teachers in my life, and I suppose there is always that one teacher that actually makes you stand in your own shoes. For me, I’ve been fortunate to have had a few, but for the sake of this story I want to bring up a day in Peter Zallinger’s portrait class. I was starting to feel a little competent with the portrait I was painting at the time, when Peter came to me and remarked that my portrait was coming along really well. That felt amazing. Then, he said in a matter of fact way, “too bad the ear is in the wrong place”. To that I inquired in horror, what am I to do?  Wipe it off and paint it where it belongs, was his once again, matter of fact reply. 

I know I’m sounding juvenile right now, but I honestly didn’t think I could repaint that ear as well as I had done the first time, let alone move the whole thing on what at this point was what I considered close to being a finished painting. Actually, I was lacking confidence that the happy accident would happen again, but I did wipe it off, and I painted it again. Unfortunately, in the same place, so I had to repaint it a third time. What I learned from that experience was way more than how to repaint an ear or anything else for that matter. I learned the importance and the benefits of repeating something over and over again until I have a solid understanding of what it is I am repeating, because in that repetition, I am learning what is most important. I am learning the basics, the root, the fundamental core, muscle memory, and my own alphabet, the uniqueness of seeing through these eyes. 

As it turns out after years having passed, I can look at that painting and say all the areas where I thought I nailed it, are not so holy to me now. Really, all I see is the ear and the story behind it. Thank you Peter, for that gift. 

I have chosen these images for this journal entry because this is a place that I have painted many times and hope to paint many more. In it’s simplicity, there is so much to discover about the actual place, the materials I use, and about how I see things. Each time I paint this scene, a little more of that magic seems to show up. 

Pink Field
The Grassy Field

Linwood Meadow, Orange Field