Listening To The Painting

I’m still mining many nuggets from my week at Stephen Quiller’s studio last August. One thing he said many, many times a day is to listen to the painting which means to be focused on the painting and what’s happening on the paper and responding to that. Kind of like being in the zone. I mention this because this portrait of my wife, Susan is actually the third version. For the first two I couldn’t get out of my mind my recent success with my own portrait (see the last post). In spite of my best efforts I kept thinking about how I had done my portrait and I was much too caught up in that effort so that I wasn’t ‘listening’ to this painting and not surprisingly both efforts were a bit lack lustre. I decided then to try to get that previous experience right out of my mind. So I took some paper and soaked it and lay in some bright acrylic washes of red, thalo blue and cad scarlet. I let this run at will and as it dried I added more and brighter colour. I also splattered. So I was left with a very colourful, random background wash. On top of this I sketched Susan’s portrait and then working in a negative way I painted the lights with gouache. The darks and most of the hair are that original acrylic wash. I also collaged on construction paper for the entire left hand background.

Finally, I was caught up in listening to this painting and it is, for me, a very original and exciting painting. It really has the sense of a very hot day in the sun. And for all it’s unconventionality (for me) it still reveals the personality of Susan.

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