Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Abstract Impressionism is Easy
We bought a "Paint Your Own Dali" kit from a discount bookshop (we'd gone in there to buy a road atlas, which they didn't have, curiously). It was the cheapest way to buy a canvas and some acrylic paints; the idea never being to attempt to incompetently reproduce Premonition of Civil War but instead to allow my daughter and myself to daub away.
I was thinking Rothko. My daughter had other ideas. "I want a heart," she said, "and a flower." Specifically the flower represented by her name. She indicated where she wanted them on the canvas. I began to paint.
Of course I can't paint. Not representative painting anyway. I went through a phase of spatter-painting at seventeen inspired by Jackson Pollock via John Squire. It's pretty easy to achieve some striking effects. But my inability to draw and my lack of skill with a brush have hampered my otherwise inevitable development into the next Géricault.
The finished effort was rubbish. Totally without merit. An embarrassment to the canvas. There was never any question of it being hung anywhere, but I couldn't quite bring myself
to throw it away. So it's been kicked around the house for a fortnight or so, sneaking into the corner of my vision occasionally, to remind me of my limitations.
On Monday, housebound, waiting for a courier who didn't ever arrive, I decided to take action against the offending objet. I found a small pot of metallic pink paint under the sink and began overpainting the canvas. As I did so the acrylic underneath began to lift and mix with the pink paint, creating a richly coloured paste. I grabbed a palette knife and began smearing the canvas with the paste, as if buttering toast, a technique, I dimly remembered, called impasto. It was exciting, I felt a little like Nick Nolte in "Life Lessons". I touched the picture up with streaks of acrylic, vermilion and burnt siena mixed. The smell of burnt siena, like the smell of roasted peanuts, is delicious and repulsive all at once.
I have no talent for the plastic arts, evidently, but it's very satisfying to have fluked something half-decent. And for a few moments I thought about packing in the day job and making a living selling my work over the internet, entering the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy, perhaps getting some galleries interested...