35 "...aren't we doing it for the painting and not ourselves?"
..."aren't we doing it for the painting and not ourselves?" This is a fragment of one of Sam Tchakalian's stream-of-consciousness painting critiques. He was trying to get 20-year-olds to understand that a painting stands alone, and it stands or falls on its merits. To paint well is to put the painting first. The artist's ego, needs, wants, and learned ideas of what art should be, are a distant second.
What does a painting want?
To make art that has substance, an interior life of its own, requires an artist's skill for sure. It also demands an artist's vulnerability-a willingness to fail. "Don't laugh-this is the best I can do right now. I'm dirty and sweaty from the art battlefield. It doesn't often work out. But I'll be at it again tomorrow. And the day after that. And the year after. And the decade after that."
I think it was Picasso who said (and I paraphrase)-"when I fall in love with something in a painting, I destroy it."
Because when a painter falls in love with a particular color, a gesture, a line, a shape-they can no longer see the painting as a whole. Picasso was ruthless-and brilliant-and probably the greatest painter of the 20th century. Good painters are ruthless. Mediocre painters are tolerant.
Jackson Pollock couldn't draw. His artist brothers thought he was hopeless. Jack the Dripper found a way around this flaw. Instead of a pencil he drew with paint. (I have read that he took his drip technique from an obscure woman painter). And boy, did he draw with paint. He tackled scale, color, texture, line, composition like his very life was on the line (and considering his end, I suppose it was.)
I've seen a lot of Pollock imitators over the years. It's sort of comical that they seem to not understand that the reasons Pollock paintings are great is not because of the drip; they are great because they are infused with Pollock's touch, sensibility, timing, heart---they are infused with Pollock himself (the good, bad and the ugly as the movie said.) He wrestled with the elements of visual art for the sake of the painting. He may have taken his drip technique from a lesser artist-but he put it in his backpack and took it up the mountain.
This is what happens when we do it for the painting and not ourselves.