I’ve always had a hard time loosening up and “letting art happen,” and instead often find myself stuck after attempting to micro-manage every aspect of what I’m planning to do. As an exercise, I started working on a series of four abstracts based on closing my eyes and moving with unrestrained gestures. I worked on all four abstracts in the same fashion, at every stage.
I chose various texturing pastes while listening to music. I thought of my arm and hand as dancing to the music, and focused on the movements rather than the results. When I’d finished six layers of texturing (maybe 2-3 per day), I laid down black lines of paint from an acrylic squeeze bottle, again with closed eyes, while listening to music. The idea was to learn to move fluidly, and to keep myself from getting in my own way by pulling my gestures short based on prejudgement of the results.
Once the lines were on the paper, I took a scraper and closed my eyes again, moving it against the paper as as the music moved me. I walked away without looking, washed my scraper and came back the next day. It surprised me, in every instance, that when I looked at the results I saw very clear images that gave me direction for continuing the paintings. When the lines of the image resolved, I stared for a moment or two, closed my eyes again with the music on, and laid in a layer of clear acrylic gloss, filling in areas of the “body” that, in my mind, had emerged. I knew that subsequent layers of acrylic would not adhere to the gloss layer, and that they would give body to the shapes the lines made in my head.
Then I glazed with subsequent layers of fluid acrylics, glosses, and spatters, letting them dry between applications. For each of these applications, I looked at the image, and then closed my eyes before applying the medium. In this fashion, the depth of the images and the backgrounds surfaced in round after round. It was very, very hard to resist opening my eyes. I blew it a couple of times, but in each instance I just put the brush or scraper down before touching the paper and walked away from the table. Later I returned and finished the layer.
I stopped working on an image when it “felt” done. This happened at different times for each of the four pieces. In the end, I was happier with the results than I’ve been with any of my other work in acrylics, mainly because of the strength and power of the lines. It’s a reminder that in art, sometimes, the less one thinks, the better. For me, the struggle to find the balance between eyes, mind, and heart is at the center of it.