I've been clearing out my studio, and found a few Giclee prints that never sold. Anything that comes back from the galleries without selling, I call my "orphans". It's not that they are somehow worse than other paintings; its just they never found the right parent. So I'm selling them here.
It’s impossible to tell whether a painting will succeed at the outset of the work. That’s why I find it so nerve-racking. Success or failure can leave me feeling good at the end of the day, or frustrated. I cannot understand artists who paint without friction, but I can see it in their work.
I have always been partial to evidence of a struggle in a painting: the ghostly work underneath poking through, the scrubbed-out line, the redrawing, the abrasions, the erasures...it all makes the process come alive for me.
For a while I painted over finished paintings I didn’t like, leaving ambiguous passages where it wasn’t clear what was going on. There was this lovely half-way moment, when the two paintings reacted with each other in ways i couldn’t predict.
In a similar way, I’ve always preferred working drawings and paintings, rather than the finished work. John Constables full-size sketch for the Hay-wain is more exciting than the finished one. Yet even the Hay-wain itself, that most iconic of English paintings, has its own pedimento...that mysterious floating barrel.
FALSE START # 1
Ten years ago, I went up to Gloucester, MA, and took a bunch of photos of the houses painted by Edward Hopper nearly a century ago. I was thinking of painting them, and lets face it, after a hundred years that could all do with a new coat. Pictures of them, but with my own sensibility. They aren’t hard to find; a Google search will reveal where they are – those that are left – hiding in plain sight. Knock yourself out. What’s harder to understand is why one house suggested a painting to him rather than another. Apart from having an eye for the curvaceousness of a mansard roof, Hopper seemed agnostic as to why he would paint one house rather than another. Perhaps it was the way light happened to be playing on them as he walked by, or maybe he knew the occupants, angling for a quick sale. Often (I found) it was because there was a space in which he could set up his easel, without being in the way.
Nothing came of it. Other projects intervened.
FALSE START #2
A year ago the idea returned. Off I went again, camera in hand. People have often said my work looks like Hopper’s but, apart from the fact I sometimes paint pix of houses, and love a good diagonal ( as he did), I always felt we handled paint in different ways, but perhaps with similar motives. I took a shitload of snaps, and bunged them into a folder on my computer, completed one painting gleaned from them called “Hopper House” of the afore-mentioned mansard, and promptly forgot about them. Other projects intervened.
START #3 (YET TO BE DETERMINED IF FALSE)
Went up again last week (twice). A good sign. Once in the morning and once in the evening, both on cloudless, crisp New England days. Came back with promising images, I think.
The catalyst to try this idiosyncratic enterprise again was Instagram. I had posted “Hopper House” and it had gleaned a lot of positive responses. Not only that, it sold, a tremendous aphrodisiac to my practice. However the new batch of photos were disappointing. They just didn’t have anything I felt I could use. I looked again at “Hopper House.” What was it that made it work? Perhaps it was the interplay of detail at a certain scale, and the (obvious) struggle to depict it. I sized and cropped the new images I had in a similar way, matching the size of the windows in the Hopper House painting to the size of the windows in the new paintings, thus hopefully reproducing the conditions for the painting to unfold as I wanted it to, in the same manner. Paint big, paint small. What works, what doesn’t. Sometimes the painter is the last to know.