Every painting evolves differently in the studio. Some are born easily, essentially painting themselves. Others require round after round of uncertain explorations, followed by periods of reflection, trying to ascertain where the painting wishes to go. The final painting may look effortless but beneath the paint may lie untold hours of frustration. The process of creation may not always be a pleasant experience, but I find it fulfilling.
This post is about how, sometimes, the evolution of a painting is a long, drawn-out affair that may encompass years of gestation. The study for a painting shown above was made in 2009. It was a rather unusual departure from what I was painting at the time. I put it aside and moved on. However, about 3 years later, I happened upon the study again as I was showing artwork to someone visiting my studio. I became intrigued. I wanted to pursue the idea as a larger painting.
Initially the idea was to create an 8 foot wide painting using two 2×4 foot panels I had recently obtained. This necessitated me to add a board to widen the shelf of my easel. However as the work progressed, I began to contemplate doubling the width of the overall work to 16 feet, which prompted me to add another 2×4 foot panel to the far left and right of what I had begun. For some insane reason I felt compelled to try to make the image of the freeway as one long continuous road, instead of a bunch of independent roads overlapping each other. This presented its own challenge as the painting had to still feel compositionally balanced. After the composition was lain out I began work on lighting and then the laborious task of painting several thousand cars.
The process of painting all the cars took several weeks. It was a mind-numbing experience, yet oddly meditative. Even though I could see that I was making headway with the painting, I felt like kicking myself for undertaking such a protracted project. But I needed to see it through. It seemed like a compulsion. So of course the working title became “Compulsive Actions.”
The painting is finished. I can finally view the piece in its entire 16 foot glory. It now seems small to me. I have this nagging urge to paint it again, but LARGER. Heaven help me.