Thursday, September 1, 2011
Swingin' For The Fences
Ted Williams, arguably Baseball's greatest hitter-- even if he did say so himself-- said that the key to being a good hitter was, "get a good pitch to hit". Sage advice, but easier said than done. Many has been a big-league hitter who looked like an idiot swinging at pitches in the dirt. They thought they had a good pitch to hit, only to be badly fooled. Then there's Joltin' Joe DiMaggio, who once said that the difference between a warning track fly ball and a home run was the difference of just one quarter-inch of where the ball hit the bat.
What's my point? Well, isn't painting like that? You know, getting a good subject to paint is like getting a good pitch to hit. Maybe it's a babbling brook flowing through a lovely meadow, or a vase of peonies, or perhaps a lovely model reclining on a Victorian couch that screams "Paint Me!" the way a hanging slider screams "Hit Me!" to a baseball player. But then comes the rub: is it going to be a pop-up, or a home-run?
Take that stream, for instance. Would it be a better composition from this side, or that side? And that flowering apple tree in the meadow; how do I incorporate that? What about those lovely flowers in that stoneware vase-- might it be more interesting with a cut-glass crystal vase? Oh, and let's not forget that lovely model; should I show one breast or two? It's those little details that make or break a painting. The great painters seem to make the right decisions and hit it out of the park, while the rest of us hit grounders up the middle. Sure, it might be a hit, but it's not a Home-Run.
I don't want to forget about those insidious subjects that look like they would make a great painting, a masterpiece that will hang in the Louvre someday, only to really be a fifty-nine foot curve-ball that you swing at and miss for strike three. How do you keep from chasing bad pitches? Practice, practice, practice, so the next time you see a "Hit Me!" painting, you can take it deep. After all, to para-phrase the one-and-only Yogi Berra, painting is ninety-percent physical--
the other half is mental.