Is that.... that?
If you’re surrounded by sophisticated “art interested” people all the time, you would either be constantly stimulated, driven mad, or somewhere in-between.
Depending on your capacity to understand the unlimited opportunities to make culturally significant paintings, eventually you have to decide what’s significant for you or you get nowhere other than into a state of constant anxiety about what you’re doing .
I’m thinking about Neil Welliver saying that some people probably think that he’s out there thinking profound thoughts while painting when in fact he says “I’m thinking about …..is that….that?”
That’s a significant thought for any so called representational painter. And probably a very limited thought for many representational painters.
“Is that…..that?” is a great question but answering it is a complex undertaking.
Welliver was assisted in getting his answer through his personal methods just as we all must discover what works best for us. (Another complex issue) For him it was doing small oil studies out in the field, making large charcoal drawings (the size of the intended paintings to follow) from these studies, cutting through the large drawing with a tailor’s perforating wheel, using a charcoal pounce to transfer the drawing to his canvas. Then the application of paint could begin.
Those are the bones of his method but of course, what gave him his final ….that IS that…. quality had to be evoked by his unique sensitivity that make the painting his own. That’s the same issue that makes anybody’s works look like their own and like no one else.
The most dangerous path for a painter is to love some other painter’s work in the wrong way. There is a right way and a wrong way to love great work.
If, while working, the painter drifts into noticing that their painting wants to look like a beloved historical image, the individual spark inherent in the painter is immediately extinguished.
What is it that is so loved and admired that is influencing the painter who responds in this unfortunate way? And what should one do with it.
What that painter is responding to is the individual vision of the beloved painter; the very characteristic that this “modern” painter is denying for themselves at the moment that they only see a veiled version of that beloved painter in the painting they’re working on.
How can one deal with influence positively?
Within the context of many years of work and looking at great paintings you gradually realize what really causes you to be strongly moved emotionally and intellectually. Your resultant paintings won’t look superficially like the artist you love after it’s transposition through your persona and intellect. But those paintings have a chance of containing the same spiritual spark that your years of serious looking and working has revealed to you.
And what are great paintings? Look at centuries of work and decide for yourself.
There will be many factors in your decision and many of those factors will have been consistently present throughout those centuries.
Painting by Neil Welliver