The process of painting is a lot like naming a baby.
Some people have the name all picked out before the baby is born. The baby WILL BE Joseph Jumping-Geranium Smith. There is no wiggle room. Everyone will be told far before the due date of the baby-to-be’s name, and when Joseph Jumping-Geranium is born, no one will even consider that he might look more like a Peter Potted-Petunia Smith. Oh no, no. JJGS he is, and JJGS he will be. These are the painters who set out to paint exactly what they will have painted when they are finished. I don’t think many of these painters are ADD.
Some people pick a likely name or two, and when the baby comes flying out into the world they quickly decide which name the baby shall have. “We’re thinking Pookie Punkinhead, but we might go with Lola Lemondrop or Suzie Salmonloaf.” These are the painters who set out with a somewhat solid idea in mind, but there’s wiggle-room. I sometimes paint this way, but I’m more committed to the wiggle-room than the solid idea.
Then, there are the people who decide that the baby will present the world with its own name upon its arrival. “Oh! He looks like he’s laughing! Let’s name him Isaac.” Or, “Look at that red hair! Let’s call him Rufus Henry!” Some of these people might wait and wait for the baby to give some indication of its moniker, and these people live in communes and have children who are called Lalalala or Mine!, until they are five. It’s all wiggle-room, all the time. In my painting, I often hang with this crowd. I just….. start, and see what happens; see what and where the painting feels like it’s doing and going, and I happily change course until I hit a sweet spot.
Painting is like a relationship. There is me, and there is the painting. The painting is always changing; colors and textures popping up in ways I didn’t quite expect. If the painting is never static, then how can my idea of its outcome be so?
When I go the let-the-baby-name-itself route, remnants of earlier ideas are often visible, and lines or shapes or colors I put down when I had a different path in mind now glow through and assert themselves. Incorporating them into the newer incarnation is a puzzle that is joyful to solve; these old fossils are like gifts to a new painting. They’re found money and they’re always welcome.