Monday, April 18, 2011

It looks easy!

As write this post tonight a very attractive skunk keeps coming up to me and sniffing my boot. It is mostly white and gray, not like others I have encountered before. Carries itself very well.

images by Eduard Manet from artrenewal.org
Some one in the comments recently referred to spontaneity and the possibility of losing that. I want to speak a little about the type of paintings above or those from the brush of a John Sargent or other bravura painter. Although the paintings may look dashed off, and they may even be done rather rapidly, that is part of the art, an artifice, a deception.

In the early eighties when I first heard Stevie Ray Vaughn play guitar, I thought, that sounds so easy! But what it was, was facile. Great musicians, acrobats, and magicians all deliberately work at their craft until it looks effortless. They want it to look easy. If. when you saw them perform, they looked like they could barely do it, their effort would be a distraction. The trick is to make it look as if they can just rattle off difficult things by natural talent. I suppose it may be attractive to viewers that the labor is camouflaged, as the viewer can then imagine himself doing the same thing ( as I supposed until I next touched a guitar after hearing SRV ) Part of being REALLY good at something is making it look easy.

Richard Schmid once wrote that "loose is how things look, not how they are made". The passages that seem spontaneous are often those painted most deliberately with icy concentration. Nothing in them is accidental. The ability to make them is at the end of a long progression of failed or lesser sallies at the same result. To paraphrase the amazing Mr. Schmid "spontaneous is how a painting looks, not how it was made".

There is no way to relax yourself into being able to dash off bravura passages in profound alpha state nonchalance, anymore than you can play guitar like SRV that way.

11 comments:

Deb said...

You have seen a rare and unusual coloration of skunk called "smoke" -
I am not kidding.

You make it look easy.

Painting Tips and Tricks said...

Nice painting! Great Work! By the way, If you have time,
drop by my painting blog...Daniel

Adrien Bernard-Reymond said...

Hi Stapelton, I totally agree with you. When I asked about spontaneity I wasn't really speaking about speed or (un)finished work. But more about the state of mind you are in when you are on location: you're in the desert, weather's hot, surrounded by the world you're painting, you are inside your subject. But then, you put this work aside for a while and when you come back to it in your studio you're in a totally different environment and a different state of mind. So I was wandering if this different state of mind would change the way you paint and maybe lead you to a more academic or studio style; which also bring the eternal question "when to stop?"...
Thanks for sharing.

mariandioguardi.com said...

I always finish my still life, after the actual subjects have been removed. Painting memory is more powerful than painting in the moment. Memory carries the essential. You can quote me on that.

Philip Koch said...

A wonderful post, thanks for writing it. (And my best to the skunk please).

I remember my very first oil painting when I was in tenth grade. I figured it would go ok if I just painted a banana and two oranges. Disaster ensued. It was so traumatic that I put the paint set away for the next two years and pulled my blankets over my head.

Richard said...

There's a great book called "Bounce" on the subject of apparent ease of some skill in art, sports, etc. Behind most of these skills is 3 hours of practice a day for ten years.

Richard

Steve Baker said...

Manet has always confused me. So much of his work is flat, more intellectually interesting than technically. Then you find these still lifes and they are the essence of bravura. I have a book of only his still life work and it is amazing. Close examination shows the thought in those bold brushstrokes.

billspaintingmn said...

We used to call that air guitar.
When they look away and hit the high notes, it feeds the ego.

I wonder if Sargent looked away as he painted?

barbara b. land of boz said...

I see that you are also able to speak to the anmials. Prehaps a shy fan that only wanted to converse with you about todays subject.
I believe that spontaneity comes from within....Because, in order to go forward at the rate of thoughts conceived.. one must give permission to bare all that is brought to our attention. You have a special and greatly coveted way of being able to express yourself....Because of this blob that you share with us each day I have found my own way of expressing myself. For this I am thankful....

May the peace of the Lord be always upon you and yours Stapeton.

barbara b. land of boz said...

P.S. Thanks for the SRV......always a pleasure to listen to.

CANDY said...

Love SRV, have all his stuff. And talking about making it look easy, I got to see Jimi Hendrix (twice) in person (yes, I'm that old...) and he played absolutely effortlessly. It was amazing. Ah, to paint effortlessly!! Someday...