20×14, Acrylic on Arches Rough 140# watercolor paper
Price unknown, since it’s still not finished!
Some paintings almost paint themselves. They are Gift Paintings. If several of those happen in a row, you may even start to feel like you’re getting a grip on this “painting” thing. The painting above is not one of those.
Most paintings present enough challenges to me to not fall into the Gift Painting category. They are satisfying puzzles to solve, that leave me hungry for the next challenge. This painting is not one of those either.
Then there are the paintings that totally humble us. Now we’re talking about this painting! They are also tremendous growth opportunities. Whether they end up in frames or not, they become their own reward through their ability to teach us something new, and it doesn’t come easily!
This painting began one recent afternoon at Manitoga in Garrison, where I sat at the base of this massive waterfall. I have painted more waterfalls than I can count, but I didn’t count on the number of challenges this particular one would present. This series of cascades is is more like 100 waterfalls than one waterfall, and I have never painted 100 waterfalls in a single painting. Plus:
1. I had already done a painting in the morning;
2. It was hot out;
3. I was short on time;
4. I had a broken toe to contend with;
5. There were massive numbers of biting Black Flies. (Two days later, I counted 72 black fly bites on my arms and legs!)
So, why did I take on such a complex scene that afternoon? I have no idea. Not only did I take on a complex scene in a short time frame, but I had to go and do it 20 inches tall! What was I thinking?
I did what I could on location, shot a couple of reference images, and figured it would go in the large Unfinished pile at home, many of which never again see the light of day. But this one kept beckoning to me. It’s on a watercolor block, so I can’t use the rest of the block until I finish the darn thing! I pulled it out one day and decided some areas needed to be totally repainted, and some shadow areas better unified. I took out a container of white Gesso, and painted over the shadow areas that were bothering me. That way, I could rework them with transparent color, and better unify the shadow sections that I didn’t like. I put the painting away for the gesso to dry, and that was that.
Until today! It beckoned me again. I reworked some of the shadow areas, better defined some of the rocks, got some forms to turn, and resolved what I was going to do with the bottom section of the painting, even if I didn’t wrap it up yet. My daughter thinks it’s coming along, so that gives me hope. I’m thinking one more day just might do it for this one. Or not. Here’s where it stands now:
This is a battle I’d really like to win. While painting, I think about ways I could have approached this subject differently. Perhaps with a different game plan, I could have gotten to this point much sooner, without so many detours and reroutings. These paintings that make us think outside of the box, and force us to look at our subjects or techniques in a different manner, are the best learning opportunities and experiences that we have. This one may never go into a frame. It might be one of those paintings that I pull out every couple of months or years, and work with a bit more, to see what I can gain from the experience, and learn what the painting can teach me about the process.
I have paintings that have been in that pile of unfinished works for years. Every so often, I pull one out and I’m able to do what the painting needs right away. That tells me how far I’ve come, while some of the others in the pile remain an enigma, and tell me how far I have to go. I continue to let them teach me as I try to solve their mysteries. I think it’s a good idea to always keep a pile of mysteries in the studio.