There is problem solving and making order first before working out meaning. It took 20 years of working without specific intention using shape, color and texture to arrive at a purpose in the work. This was necessary and couldn’t be skipped or fine tuned. The more words I use about the work, the farther I feel from the meaning of it. I prefer instead to approach it physically through repetition, layer by layer. Adding what feels right and true and removing what doesn’t. Same slow ritual over and over.
I get ready to paint first by changing clothes. My work clothes are worn and splattered with paint. I wear the same ones for years and I’m sad when something becomes too worn and I have to let it go.
I use a thick sheet of beveled glass for my palette and another to sandwich the wet paint when I’m done for the day, so when I return to work, I begin by pulling apart the sheets. I clean my palette. I remove the dried paint with a blade scraper. I mix my glazing medium. This is a slow and deliberate process.
I sit down in front of the painting and just look. The previous day's layer of paint has set. I may spend 15 minutes only looking. I identify all the areas that need work; a detail that’s ambiguous, an area of shadow that is not consistent with the direction of light, or a color that needs depth or brightness. I select the specific problems I will work on then begin. There are always problems that remain to be solved and the painting informs me what it needs. For me it’s an ongoing conversation with an idea. I return sometimes to paintings that I started years before. I am never really done.
I choose my brushes carefully. I go through many and I'm harder on them now because I can't feel my hands very well. The brushes become worn down and, when the bristles are short they become eraser brushes.
I paint in layers. I use fine sandpaper to smooth out specks and lint from the previous layers and I add paint very sparingly. This is an impossible task. There will always be imperfections. Each painting acquires hundreds of layers over time. Each layer is a day's work.
I use rags made from our old clothes and sheets for wiping and erasing. I like using my son's old things because it reminds me of when he was little. I use rags made from bedding I had when I lived in Paris so many years ago. I like the reminder. I can’t let go of the used rags which somehow become symbols of the effort; their own abstract works in a way.
I lay out fresh paint onto my palette from the tube. This takes longer than it used to. I’ve lost feeling in my fingers and strength in my hands. I can't feel the cap. It’s more challenging now to squeeze the paint through the opening and to get the cover back on.
Everything goes slowly. Each routine step is part of a ritual of transitioning to work on the painting. Whatever else I might have on my mind falls away. I am only thinking about the next step and the painting and the problem I see in front of me. By the time I begin to paint, I am clean. I listen to music. There is only the painting and the act of painting and the music. Everything else slides away in the work.
After I finish and have completed the slow process of cleaning up, I don’t look. When I come back to the studio hours later and see with fresh eyes, it feels like I’m discovering the work for the first time. I look quickly, but I don’t study it. That’s for the next chance I will have to go to work and start the ritual again.
Copyright © 2019 Janice L. Moore