art process

Finishing by Patricia Raible

paul-cc3a9zanne-la-montagne-sainte-victoire-vue-des-lauves2.jpg

 

La Montagne Sainte Victoire vue des Lauves, 1901 – 06, Paul Cézanne

 

Is an artwork ever finished? Some artist can say yes, sign it, and let it go out into the world. Others, unless (it goes into the world) will keep changing and refining it. So we have finish as in “complete” and finish as in “process.”

 When I did a little research I found that Paul Cézanne was among the painters who left so many paintings incomplete. One historian blamed some of this on his analytical methods and his use of thickly placed layers of paint since it likely took months to finish any piece. But editors of a book called Cezanne Finished- Unfinished explain that the unfinished areas were possibly experimental at first but were later deliberate and provide us with insight into his creative process.

 This all started because I am constantly “finishing”—one of those who fits both definitions. Luckily, I don’t “finish” as in process (a cold wax rub for my paintings) because if it’s hanging in the studio I keep refining. Just a few days ago I decided that a small portion of a large painting wasn’t right, a painting that had been there for at least a couple months. I was disturbed that a shape in the corner seemed to lead your eye off the page. At least it was an easy fix and had not gone to a gallery or show.

 Harder than “finishing” the painting will be photographing the “newly finished” piece. 

 

Connections by Patricia Raible

Detail of "Fight Song," 36" x 24", mixed media on board

Detail of "Fight Song," 36" x 24", mixed media on board

This past weekend was the second time in as many weeks that I visited my mother and she did not know me. There are many possible reasons for this—medication, the progression of her Lewy Body Dementia, the fact that she is waking from a deep sleep. 

It saddens me in many ways, but once I tell her who I am and help her connect, there is still lucid conversation. When I tell her about my four-month-old grandson’s crying and tummy troubles, she remembers my brother who died in August. Then she says: “You were no trouble, always happy.” Of course, this is not what she said while I was growing up or what she would have said a few months ago, but it is lovely to hear. I have to fight the tears because I want us to talk about happy memories, and I want to keep her connected to the present as long as I can.

So how does this relate to art? I think it has to do with the layers that I texture, paint, and collage. I was reminded of this when teaching a workshop this past weekend. My paintings have so many layers, some of which I like and some of which I don’t.  I may bring one to the surface and then decide I don’t like it or don’t like part of it. Or I may create a layer that is a combination of what is below and the new elements I add to the top.

Putting something new on the surface doesn’t change that initial layer; it just adds to it, making it richer, more complex. It connects each piece, allowing me to focus on what is most important. Life is like that too.

Positives from Negatives by Patricia Raible

unfinished painting

“What do you do with everything that is cut away?” she asked Tilman, thinking now about the negative space of stone sculpture, the stone that is discarded, thinking too about how she had thrown away huge pieces of her own early life…”
from The Stone Carvers by Jane Urquhart.

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