Persistance resistance

Ahh...the joy of mixing Naples Yellow and earths, Naples Yellow and Raw Sienna is there any greater colour? Maybe bump it up a bit with some Orange Ochre...quite frankly I could spend my entire life just mixing variations of these earthy orange yellows.

This is a diversion, I would like to write a little about two artists Frank Auerbach and Alberto Giacometti.

Giacometti in his studio

To lose that which is irreplaceable and 'works' in order to pursue something unknown and potentially disastrous takes great faith.

Auerbach and Giacometti both demonstrate this faith, both working on something until the point of collapse, this certainly takes a creative bravery, with the potential reward of a clearer representation of 'truth'. As ever painting is not a life or death situation but its lessons can be used directly in life.

Both artists demonstrate the value of keeping going to find a deeper, clearer representation. Painting is highly suited to this method, so often the easy decision for a painter is to be satisfied with what has already been made without pushing through to new levels of depth. I feel it is important to keep going only then maybe you will find a real 'truth' or insight, it is difficult when you know you will lose something completely irreplaceable.

The clinging onto the small passages of a painting which 'work' in my opinion has to be overcome, the clinging is the problem, it is counterproductive.

Frank Auerbach talking about working from his model;

" There was always the feeling that she might get fed up, that there might be a quarrel or something. I also had a much greater sense of specifically what she was like, so that the question of getting a likeness was like walking a tightrope. I had a far more poignant sense of it slipping away, of it being hard to get. I'd done the painting in a relatively timid way; that is, I'd tried to do one part and then another part, and save a bit. Then suddenly I found myself with enough courage to repaint the whole thing from top to bottom, irrationally and instinctively, and I found I'd got a picture of her. " 

To me the working method demonstrated by these two artists provides great inspiration, surely the only purpose of art is to represent reality and truth at a deep non-verbal level, I know there is plenty of painting and sculpture which does not hold these goals as its purpose but for me I see no other reason for doing it. 

Even if the result is not to everybody's taste, as ever it is the process which is important (I believe nobody will ever have a creative 'block' if they focus purely on the process, it is the obsession with the result which 'blocks').

Giacometti frequently worked his plaster sculptures until they collapsed to nothing, then started again and Auerbach's intense, deep impasto paint was not created as a 'look' but through the constant addition of more paint trying to convey reality more concisely and clearly, layer and layer of searching sometimes over years on one painting.

Just look (don't analyse) at either artist's work and they are littered with these truths and happy accidents, I personally don't think there is anything more inspiring to a painter than this, apart from nature itself.

E.O.W. on Her Blue Eiderdown II 1965, by Frank Auerbach

James Holman
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