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July 13, 2022

It’s Only Paint

An art teacher, who encouraged me to stretch boundaries and try new

techniques, would do so by telling me, “It’s only paint”. To me, those words on

their most basic level mean go ahead, give it a try, see what happens, and be

fearless with your art. If one creative attempt does not work, try something else.

Change is possible. Just use more paint. Paint is not precious. Life is precious;

people are precious; paint is just paint.

“It’s only paint” has become a sort of mantra for me. I recall it repeatedly to move

myself out of the murky depths of artistic inertia, a place devoid of inspiration and

motivation, and where the fear of starting something new lurks. “It’s only paint”

reminds me every creation does not have to be a masterpiece and first, second,

or third attempts are just that – attempts. They do not have to be perfect or

finished because they can be set aside to work on some other day.

The same art teacher who gave me “It’s only paint” also gave me, “You have to

paint a lot of turkeys before you paint a masterpiece”. These words are all too

true and I have lots of turkeys to prove them.

Recently, I found myself sinking into the murky depths of artistic inertia. In an

effort to stop the plunge and find motivation and inspiration, I took to rearranging

and reorganizing my studio workspace. Eventually, I got around to sorting

through my turkeys; paintings I did not like for one reason or another. I picked

through them, placing most of them aside for reconsideration at a later date.

Then inspiration and motivation struck when I found one painting I valued enough

to begin reworking immediately. I still appreciated the subject and most of the

composition but disliked my application and use of color. I decided to paint over

the turkey. So using the same canvas and oil paint, instead of the water colors

used for the first painting, I went to work. “It’s only paint” kicked in and

kick-started a turkey rework.

When I compare a photo of the first painting with the reworked painting I believe

the turkey is banished. The first painting had hard edged shadows and a horse

whose coat seemed blotchy and thin; in the reworked painting the shadow edges

are soft and the horse’s coat is smooth and seems touchable, almost velvety. In

the first painting the sky was small and the distant trees large, seeming to

overshadow the horse. In the second painting the horse dominates the scene

which is exactly what a focal point is meant to do. The second painting’s

perspective is vastly improved from the first’s. Finally, compare the field and the

fences. In the first painting the field does not ground the scene as it does in the

second painting, nor does the first painting’s fences have the texture and

dimensional heft they have in the second painting.

I believe the second painting banishes the turkey that was the first painting.

While maybe not a masterpiece, the second painting is a good one that, as far as

I am concerned, is finished. Using new paint provided me the opportunity to

recycle materials and rework an image worthy of reworking. To make that change

I needed to adopt the “It’s only paint” philosophy of being a little fearless, trying

something else, and seeing what happens. I like what happened. Change was

possible. All it took was a little bit of paint.