Art and Apology

Monday, September 15, 2014

“The reason not to perfect a work as it progresses is that, concomitantly, original work fashions a form the true shape of which it discovers only as it proceeds, so the early strokes are useless, however fine their sheen.”

Annie Dillard, The Writing Life (p. 16)

As I’ve worked on this painting, a friend has marveled about the gradual change from chaos to organization, about the many layers of paint and transformation that occur. “I had no idea so much went into a painting,” he said. “I thought you just painted one layer–that you just go straight to the finished work in one shot.”

Ha! It’s rarely been this way in any area of my life, and certainly not in painting.

Over time, though, I’m learning to appreciate the layers as they accumulate–each is necessary for the next, and I can’t see around the corner before I get there. Still, sometimes I catch myself apologizing to a studio visitor who sees a work in progress. “It’ll get better,” I say. “This isn’t the finished product.”

 But really, the apology is silly. In therapy, we say, “The only way out is through.” So it is with painting, too.

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