Have the canvas sitting in my writing room for over a year.
Have a specific place/space to hang it, after of course, it’s finished: on the big wall in the tall staircase that leads to the upper-most level of my house.
Begin the struggle with concepts, and settle on one: to mirror/echo/recreate the space itself: the wooden stairs leading upward to the upper-most level: an image that will begin at the bottom in partial darkness and lead upwards to light, uplift, and some sort of arrival…
Begin sketches, progress to 6, 7, 8, each sketch coming closer to the original concept/idea but each a failure in its own right; that is, each sketch fails to represent either the concept of steps or their representational reality.
More sketches, more thinking: look at painters, Gary Hume, Jack Whitten, Helen Frankenthaler, Agnes Martin: how do they do what they did?
Think about the difference between acrylic and oil paint, both the practical difference and the difference one or the other will make in the making of my painting.
Gesso the canvas, a kind of liberation. Gesso it again, hopefully. Gesso the canvas once more so that it knows I’m taking it seriously. Worry that I’ve gessoed it too much, cut off its airholes, prevented it from becoming the watercolor it may want to be.
More sketches, all in color, more thinking, even cut out patterns in the shape of footsteps, painstakingly, realizing the moment after I cut them what a dumb, obvious idea this is, like an adman hoping to sell his tired idea to an unsuspecting client. Destroy the footsteps and substitute circles.
Days go by, no action but can’t get the quest of the painting out of my mind. Become obsessed with the notion of surfaces, write about their intrigue, their complete possession of the eye.
Move the canvas to the garage and hang it on a wall down there; have the thought, maybe the canvas likes it the way it is: a white surface, neither abstract or representational, made of gesso. If I leave it alone the way it is is it really a painting?
Look at the gesso-white canvas for several days. Walk around it, ignore it, re-engage with it etc.
A color palette begins to emerge, which follows the original concept of the stair(s) moving from darkness to light, from the bottom to the top, but which resists the decorative. Eliminate circles from consideration.
More sketches, but with decided upon color palette. One sketch after another fail, closer and closer though, close enough to encourage both re-engagement with the canvas and the possibility of its destruction…
(to be continued Monday, November 26, 2018)