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BOREAS SANCTUS

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DISASTERS:
 
Although generally within the sphere of practical politics if a person tells you a painting is no good, all you need to do is ask someone else.  Eventually you'll come across one who thinks it's the best thing they've ever seen.  Downright shifty, this utterly subjective business, but reflective of humankind's myriad of differences of perception and response to the world around us.  One man's ceiling is another man's floor, afterall.
 
In that regard, one could - and many do - say there is no such thing as a bad painting.  However, a painter may, and often does, run into a subject which somehow, for some reason, he / she simply cannot express to their own standard. 
 
A challenging painting sometimes resolves into an absolute triumph; and sometimes it devolves into a hot mess of defeat.  This page is dedicated to the battles I have fought and lost.
 
Why fess up to these atrocities?  Well, for one thing, because even though they did not turn out as I wanted them to, I likely poured hours and hours and quite a lot of paint into trying, and I hate all that time and money being entirely for naught.  Plus, it just seems more honest, to include, alongside the efforts that came out perfectly*, those that did not.
 
However, that being said, there are many, many more disasters to my name than I plan to document here.  These are just those I have easy access to, recently done - or, if you prefer, undone. 
 
 *"perfectly" = "better than awful, in my opinion, at this point in time"



It's been a while since I posted on this page, though this is most certainly not the only disaster in recent history. I've squirreled several away somewhere, and will eventually post. This one - painted sometime in October or November of 2015, I believe - as is perenially the case, I was fixated on the water, and incredibly focused on making the water look the way it did to me in life. And I think I got it pretty well. But the effort I spent on that was all I had to spare. It was a busy scene from a dock near the fish processing plants in Gloucester.  There were tons of seagulls which initially were to be part of the painting. I tried one, with freezing hands, and it didn't work. I tried some of the buildings and boats on the opposite shoreline and then, abruptly, I Had Had Enough. I stopped, when home, never looked at it again (until it was dry and thus beyond repair.) I suppose if I cut it down so the unfinished green hill were gone, and about 1/3 of that long ugly cement pier in the foreground it might be salvageable. But for nwo my time would be better spent making better paintings.


 
 
 
This wretched, hideous wasteland of a painting was a big, long letdown for me.  I went to the location in Essex on a rainy day, but was so desperate to paint I ignored it, and stood out in the rain and rising tide (the entire left hand side of the scene, with the yellow flowerish looking things marking the border) for 6 hours straight and painted.  The colours were gorgeous because the day was dull, and the dead tree was overflowing with a radiant red, pink, purple coloured vine. 
 
When I got home I worked on it for three more hours, the next day for 10, the next day for 8.  And then I realized, after several scrapings and repaintings, that I was just not going to get it right before the paint dried.  I had missed the window.
 
What was problematic for me was conveying that all those leaves are a part of a vine, which hung, though full, like a delicate veil over the branch system of the dead tree.  My vine kept looking like a multi-ton mixture of regugitated tar and half-chewed jellybeans.  This one still rankles so I'll leave it at that.  It was a beautiful day and a beautiful vine, in spite of what this looks like.
 
Incidentally, I have this one up on the "Plein Air 2011" page as well, but I took its picture outside, where the light is reflecting on the sky in such a way that the whole thing is subdued and almost passable looking... but the truth is here before you.
 
 
 

Tree in Seine Field, Gloucester - With Tantrum

 
I have this painting - a cropped version thereof, on my "new work" page.  I think the left hand side is just fine!  But the right hand side, the boughs that were catching the brunt of the afternoon sun, I simply could not get right.  I loved the tree, and wanted to do its beauty, and the beauty of the golden light justice.  I can't tell you how many times I painted and repainted those branches!!!  And finally I had had enough, I scraped off the paint in a fit of pique and abandoned the project.  It's a shame because other parts of the painting I rather like...
 
 
 
 
Before beginning this painting, I had furiously declared a war on trees - deciduous trees, specifically, because they are a pain in the neck to paint, particularly with a pallette knife, which is all I have used since July 2011.  I may have mentioned this earlier, elsewhere, but once you get into the upper reaches of branches, what your eye beholds is not an object (branches) in empty space, but a RELATIONSHIP - between your eye and the light, which changes the colour of the sky and the colour of the branches.  If you look at specific branches against the blue sky, the contrast looks so marked you think you could paint the branch almost black and the sky almost white.  But this is a trick, a falsehood your eye constructs.  It is within the context of the overall tree that the two elements seem in sharp contrast - but outside that narrow context in which you behold them - that is, if you look at the bit of branch against sky as a part of the whole canopy of tree - you will see that the values are really in a very limited range.  So the question becomes, do you paint what you see when you focus on each bit?  Or do you paint what you think you see, when contemplating the whole?  This painting was the first time I really shot to paint the effect, what the Whole looks like, as opposed to carefully representing each part.  And that was good, and my teacher Mr.Curtis said this was my most successful tree yet.  And perhaps it is, but I still don't like it.  However, I'm learning, and this represents progress. 
 
 

Late December, 2011
 
Now THAT, I bet you're thinking, is a REAL DISASTER!  This is what it looks like when I have worked so hard at something that is not working that I take a risk and ask for opinions - and the opinions so crush my desire even to try, that I sabotage the whole entire thing from stem to stern.
 
I had the idea, this December, of trying to paint something for my brother in law, who had had a really rough couple of years.  His family grew up going to the Keys for vacation, and his parents remember it when it was almost pristine, undeveloped, undiscovered.  I looked online for photos of Bahia Honda beach, where his sister said his happiest childhood memories might have been formed.  I found a photo that I really liked, just of water and sky and ribbed sand visible through clear lavender-y water.  I wanted the view to be utterly peaceful and unconstraining, and it seemed like a perfect shot.  So I began.  I had gotten about 1/3 of the way through when my mother visited, and I invited her and her friend, who grew up in the keys, to see my progress.  They both told me that the photo couldn't be of bahia honda, the colour was all wrong.  The water in the Keys was a particular colour and that wasn't it!  (At this point, the painting looked like something recognizable, if not Bahia Honda.)  I took their advice and used other photos of the water colour to mix a better colour for mine - but nothing was working, and I had already used soooooooo much paint, that I got angry.... I scraped off all the paint and put it in little piles - this pile was once sky and cloud, this pile once sand, this pile once reflecting water, this pile once water you could see it.  I blended each pile into itself until they were all their own manifestation of dun gross grey.  Then I spread it all about the painting in whatever style / pattern / form I wanted to.  It started looking like a beach again, at dusk, my least favorite time of day - in a storm, through tears...!
 
The colours look to me like throwing up at Howard Johnson's, after licking some mustard off McDonalds' floor.  But I bet you the time will come, someone will tell me this was always their favorite.