“…to paint like a bird sings”

(anonymous, from Michel Houellebecq)

When I am standing in a field of stunning beauty, or anywhere outdoors, and begin a new painting, I attempt that lyrical approach to color, light, shapes, my emotions. Then the light changes, the wind starts up, I drop a favorite brush in the dirt, and there is the long walk back to the car, carefully holding the wet canvas so no one can see it and think maybe I don’t know how to paint. 

The magic, if there is such a thing, happens in the studio and for me is a process of trying to see more and more clearly what I’m doing. When I have finally “fixed” all the problems, I see that I have painted something very dull and safe. That’s when I start to paint like a bird sings, with abandon and unthinking. Sometimes. Not always. 

Sometimes, when I’m very tired of my “lyrical” representation, I take all the leftover paint and make large gestures on top of some old painting that I have put in the truly hopeless pile. I try to channel Joan Mitchell or Helen Frankenthaler, or less likely, Cy Twombly, all huge favorites. These efforts are all about the paint in a pretty non-meticulous way. They are some of my favorite efforts. 

To paint is to express love, sometimes passionate, of color and light. There is an element of didactic… “this is how it really looks, this is how you should see it.” And of course, “this is how I feel about it.” I’m thrilled when someone likes what I’ve done, but that’s not why I paint. 

There’s a story about an old Vermont dairy farmer who won the lottery. When asked what he would do with the money, he said…”just keep on dairying until the money runs out.” That’s how I feel about painting.