Masks, Skulls and Pilots – stages, versions and takes

I opened my eyes with the first ray of light cast through my windows. When a situation like that happens, I usually grab my phone and take a few pictures of my painting(s). I record changes on canvases, concentrating my attention towards how different light affects colors I work with.

I observe how light affects my painting’s The Pilot beginning stages. It often happens that I turn my paintings upside down as well while photographing them.

I have a bit of a conflicting situation with the color decisions I have made on this canvas. I use two equally great colors, violet and phtalo blue. These two colors through two different takes showed me that I could go with either one as a dominating color. It would not matter which one.

A version of The Pilot where the phtalo blue is the dominating color.
A version of The Pilot where the violet takes me on the ride with sculls.

I probably should have left the image I covered yesterday live the way it was painted, but I’ve decided to continue on exploring the skull extravaganza which was painted mostly in phtalo blue and white with some violet spots peeking through. The canvas was already expressive enough to be left alone, but something was just not satisfying me. So I went for the violet and covered two thirds of the painting with it revealing a more contained image of a large skull with another skull as a mask.

This version of The Pilot I could have left to live, but I didn’t. Now I am beating myself for it.

You already know how my eyes constantly connect lines. I find it very difficult to decide which part of a painting I am going to cover and which information I am going to leave visible. There is this need to guide the eyes of spectators to places which carry certain clear stories I tell them with my work.

This process almost feels like editing writings. You might have something great written, but know that you have to take it out for the sake of story and characters in it. Edward Gorey discussed this while talking about his creative process. He said that sometimes a line would be just too good to stay in his work, so he would “sacrifice” that line for the sake of the whole work otherwise that line would kill the work.

It is a very similar feeling I get working in my garden when I need to pull some seedlings out giving space for others to fully develop. It is a heartbreaking feeling because the seedlings are already growing, but soon, if not thinned out, they will start fighting with each other for the sun and nutrients. Because of that fight they will not grow into fully mature plants. I still make that mistake of leaving too many plants in a small space. They don’t fully develop and I am usually left without harvesting them. I am learning through my mistakes to be more decisive about things like that, be it in my garden or in my studio.

When I write I have all these great characters in my mind which I want to put in one book/play instead of dividing them into separate ones. I become overwhelmed by them and because of that they don’t develop as fully as they should. That is probably why WEOM needs to lose some of the characters and become a very clearly defined story about two friends and their friendship and eventually love. I confuse my readers by putting too many story lines which take the focus away from the main one. See, I began writing about my painting through my gardening and unexpectedly I found my problem with my screenplay.

So what does need to be done in WEOM? Which character am I going to lose? Which story line should disappear? Interestingly, Julie’s story line came to my mind first, which was actually the story line I started with while writing a theater play. I began with Julie and we found out about two other characters through her. Now, in WEOM Julie’s story line feels a little disjointed and too political. Also it feels like it is way too conventional with Skinny falling for Andy and Andy being her best friend. Oh and then we go, huh? Julie knows both guys? It almost feels like… well it is just too perfect for the story and too, what’s the word screenwriters use to describe a situation when a solution just perfectly fits, like everybody’s burning in a house but somehow there is this huge rainfall and the fire is out and everyone survives but the bad guys. That type of a situation.

For example my turquoise painting (The Turquoise Green Angel) went through quite a few changes because it was just too predictable and too flat in the character development area. I am glad I continued working on the canvas. There were times when certain characters could have been left in my work the way they came out, but then I would not have gotten to the next development stage, the one which became my final take of the painting.

This version of The Turquoise Green Angel for a long time was my “final version.”
I am very glad that I ended up with this version of The Turquoise Green Angel.

Originally written on 01-19-18


This last painting with the skulls The Pilot went through quite a few changes and now is a mess affected by some weird choices I made yesterday.

These conflicting feelings I have in regards of my artwork are normal. They could easily mean that I am approaching some creative threshold which I need to cross if I want to reach another level. It essentially means that I can see or feel where I am short with my painting techniques, but I just need to move on and continue painting. These feelings are good to have. They indicate that I need to cross into that another level, pushing through something that is not really visible. That barrier or hurdle for some people is hard to jump over. There is this creative oblivion every artist faces in their lifetime. You just have to keep doing your work, no matter what. Ha, for some reason this image of me crossing that oblivion using darkness as my bridge came to mind from a fairy tale I have written.

What I take from it is this, keep showing up in front of your easel and continue enjoying the process of painting, because really that’s what this whole thing is. Am I a good painter? Who knows? What I know is this, I do enjoy painting and I do have a weird way of seeing things. Do I have enough technique as a painter? I need a lifetime or two to be able to answer this question.

Sometimes I get this feeling about my creative endeavors being on a certain very unclear level, almost as if I am still trying to find my voice or who I am as an artist. I know that one day I will be like, oh, that is what my work is all about, and oh this is my audience and these are my people. The point I am trying to make for myself here is this, just enjoy the process and keep improving every day. There is always going to be somebody better, more talented, more unique, but the thing is, we are here in this world not to compete with each other. We are here to enrich each other’s lives and make the world a beautiful place to live. So from now on I am just going to consciously remind myself to enjoy the process and improve myself every day little by little. Who knows how much time we have left to live?

Yesterday I found out that my dear friend J. has cancer. How the fuck that has happened and how he is going to fight it nobody really can tell but him. It is really only you who is facing all that comes your way, so you can be either miserable and blame your life or whatever/whoever for your problems or you could just go and say, oh fuck it, I am going to enjoy my life even when I am hurting all over. I know it is easier to say than to actually do it, but this is some sort of a reminder to myself to take my life with joy and just live it fully. Again, it is easier to say than do it. This statement is way too vague (and cliche on top of it).

Originally written on 01-20-18

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