Thursday, August 9, 2012

Floating Down Denial River

The other day I was up in the loft of my studio, looking for some stretcher bars for a project I had in mind.  As is usually the case, when I start one thing, I soon get distracted by another.  Since the loft is also the home of mis-fit paintings, I started to look through them.  Every once in a while, I stumble upon an old reject that I think I can rescue.  Anyway, I was looking at these (too many) sad paintings-- heck, some had even been in galleries-- when I stumbled upon an atrocious, foul, monumentally horrid piece of crap painting of mine.

You might think I'm being hard on myself here, and maybe you're right.  If you disregard the extremely poor drawing; overlook the impossible perspective, never mind the banal composition, and close your eyes to the dull, muddy, uninteresting colors, you would be left with a painting that might be better served as a liner for a parakeet cage.

It was so bad, I felt like sticking my face near a wasp nest in hopes they might sting my eyes so I wouldn't have to look at it anymore.

It was so bad, I looked up pictures of Judge Judy in a swimsuit on the internet so I could burn the image of that disgusting painting out of my mind.  Yeah, I know-- torture.  But it had to be done...

The offending painting was done plein air a few years ago.  But here's what makes this tale all the more embarrassing-- I actually put this wretched piece up for sale in a wet-paint auction.  Yeah, back when I squatted down and produced this piece of "art" I honestly thought someone would pay money for it!  Oh, dear Lord!  What was I thinking?!  Surprise, surprise!  It didn't sell.  Well, needless to say, with the help of an exacto knife, this monstrosity is no longer a part of the Mizner Catalogue Raisonne`.

Now, I had done far better pieces long before I did this one, and I also like to think-- hell, I know-- I've done far better since.  So, I kind of shrugged it off as, "hey, they all can't be winners..."  But then the other night I woke up bathed in flop sweat.  The thought had come to me:  Sure, my ability to paint may have improved, but has my assessment of my paintings gotten better?  Am I better able to recognize a badly done piece now, than I was back then?

That's a slippery slope, isn't it?

You see, I usually judge the success of my painting on how close it comes to my original concept.  Did I do what I wanted to do in the way I wanted to do it?  The overwhelming majority of the time, that answer is "no."  The viewer of my painting, however, doesn't have my vision in mind.  All they have to look at is the painting.  But my success in doing what I originally envisioned doesn't necessarily make it a good painting.  The ability to see my work through other's eyes is called discernment.  I sure as hell didn't use discernment then, that's for sure!  But if I can't trust myself to assess my painting, how can I discern how others will see it?

Doesn't one need to have some self-confidence to be successful?  You know, the "To hell with what they say!" mentality.  I can't very well become frozen with doubt about every painting I do, can I?  Nothing will ever see the light of day, then.  So, I guess you can add that to the long list of things to think about when painting;

Is this painting as good as I think it is, or am I merely floating down denial river?

I really need to work on this, because I know one thing with absolute certainty:

I never want to see this again!