Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Friday, June 18, 2010

Amatuer Hour

Finally I have finished a painting that has given me fits for the last two or three weeks. It was inspired by a photograph of a female Giant Kingfisher that I saw in Kruger, in South Africa.
I like the mood of the photo and I felt that painting it would be pretty much straightforward.
This time I wanted to go back to an old technique of doing the whole painting in black and white first, and then glazing in the colors later. From the get go, painting the kingfisher was easy, but the surrounding setting I came up with just did'nt work.

Coloring in the kingfisher itself went smoothly but the rest of the painting fought me at every step. By the time I reached this point of the painting, I just scrapped the figs and branches that had originally been there, and decided to keep it as simple as possible. The background has been re-painted several times.
When I got to this point, I decided that I could not make it look any better, so it's finished. Giant Kingfisher, 11x14"
You can tell by the tone of this, and many of my blog posts, that I tend to be very self critical. I do this because I am trying to exorcize the amatuer out of my work. It is a hopeless pursuit, but for me it is necessary to improve. Why cant I paint like Bateman, or Daniel Smith? These guys have no trace of amatuerishness in their work. I do not have an answer to that.
Years ago I was talking to one of my regular collectors in an art gallery. She told me she loved my work because it displayed such a naive quality. This comment felt like a punch in the stomach to me. I tried to mask the fact that I was highly offended. After all, I had worked so hard not to be naive, or amatuerish.
Since that time I have often been introspective about my work, and my carreer choice. Sometimes I come to the conclusion that my naivete' is what gives the work it's individuality. Maybe that's a good thing?
Who decides what constitutes a good painting anyway? This painting looks nothing like what I wanted it to be, but it does look like a painting. Is it good? I honestly cannot tell.


tess stieben said...

John you are too hard on yourself and your work is definitely not Naive. I admire your work and the honesty in your working style. And as for Bateman, he seems to have found a recognizable formula that worked for him and stuck to it. I notice that he gets away with very little detail in some paintings, especially the fog paintings where he glazes thin opaque layers to soften the image. That fog is tricky and he captures it well.

john said...

Robert Bateman has been my hero since the seventies. I finally got to meet him and show him a few examples of my work last November in Anchorage. He signed three of his books for me and invited me to an artist's retreat in British Columbia, but I was saving all my nickels for Africa.