I’ve been working on a painting which I have carried in my mind for many moons. It’s a view of the marsh at high-tide at Kiawah, S.C. I’ve painted the marshes before, mostly in an abstracted landscape form; but this time, I wanted to try realism, to a point.
I decided to use a 24″x48″ canvas because I thought the wide, horizontal space best conveyed the expanse of the marsh. The first thing I did, after I put the canvas on my easel, was to paint the entire surface with a watered down, very light orange. That dried in about fifteen minutes and I proceeded to make some markings on the canvas to indicate the horizon line and the trees in the distance and the island shaped piece of land which is visible during a low tide, but is not, when the tide is high.
A few days later, I returned to my canvas, ready to begin using my palette knife for the first layer–my first mistake. I later remembered “thick over thin.” Well, I stumbled through the “first” painting, using bright colors fitting a caribbean island, never before seen in Kiawah.
The painting was, in my eyes, abominable. It wasn’t what I had envisioned at all. Why? After all, I did choose the colors and placement of land, water and trees. It was under my control, or so I believed.
I tried washing and scraping the canvas to get it so I might paint over it. The challenge was to get rid of the thick texture of paint caused by using the knife. By the time I finished this, well, you can imagine the damage I did. Off to the garbage, I thought. Quick reaction to frustration and sense of helplessness.
How many times in my life have I walked (or run) away from persons, situations and experiences because I felt frustrated, confounded, and anxious — out-of-control? Too many to count (but many good stories). This time, I vowed to myself, I would work through all the mind-games and continue to paint my original vision.
Two weeks later, I finally turned back to my painting; only this time, I laid a large piece of cloth on the floor and proceeded to lay out my paints, brushes, knives, bowl of water, paper towels and my palette with many tubes of colors. Now, I have bad knees and I knew kneeling would be painful; so, I found a gardener’s pad to use and began my chores from the floor.
This painting is still on the floor of my office/studio. Today, my husband asked me how long my stuff would be on the ground. I told him I had no idea.
My painting and my psyche have gone through several metamorphises. I think I’m making progress; but I’m not used to reworking paintings for over a month. I don’t know if this painting will work out or if it just can’t be fixed. I feel the experience is a “test” of my patience and my adaptability. In the end, it will be what it is: a painting which may or may not have an afterlife.