Blog: Painting Progression – Change Part 4

Christine Alfery

Posted on April 12 2020

Blog: Painting Progression – Change Part 4
Featured images: Big Top and Reaching Out

People often ask me how long it takes to complete a work of art. That is so – so – hard to answer. Generally I tell them there are many layers to a painting and you never know when the final layer will be finished. That is to say the creative process is something that continues to evolve for an artist – “finished” is not always black and white when it comes to art. Many artists return to works, rework, repaint, re-layer, re-start. Many artists say it takes a lifetime of creating to become the artist that created the work. 

“finished” is not always black and white when it comes to art

I have had many studio visitors say they would love to take my paint clothes and frame them as artwork. I know don’t mean to offend me when they say that, but my clothes are accidental – and there is nothing, absolutely nothing that is accidental about my artwork. I have had years of training, education and work experience. Years.

Creating conceptual abstract artwork is a challenge - there is no pre-conceived figurative notion that drives the creation - you don’t start by “painting a tree” or a portrait. I rarely have an intent in mind when I begin a work – rather the shapes and forms created by the washes of paint form ideas and I begin to talk to the work, talk to the color, and listen as it speaks back to me. As I create I want the work to speak – I seek the work and the work seeks me and usually we find each other.

 As I create I want the work to speak – I seek the work and the work seeks me and usually we find each other.

 Take my most recent work as an example. When I began to work on this piece – formerly known as Big Top – I had a palatte I was working with. I knew I wanted a very spontaneous free flowing work and Big Top accomplished that.

Big Top

The initial work Big Top took several days to complete. I know the drips, and flowing paint and composition look like it shouldn’t have taken that long – but it did. Those marks don’t come easily and are rarely spontaneous and left as is.

This work was exhibited in a gallery and when I got the work back it was very dirty and needed touching up. What started out as a touching up ended up being much more than that. After a day or two of cleaning it up I realized I was going to paint over the whole thing and leave only certain sections of it that I really liked. Rarely rarely will I paint over a piece – for some reason Big Top was an exception. I think I hadn’t painted a large canvas for a long time and I was ready for the challenge. 

This is what it looked like to start. You can still see some of the marks that were in Big Top (the orange through the middle, the blue down the side) but it became a completely different piece. 

At this stage I had spent about a week with it – changing it, tweaking it – and I thought it was done. I took it to the stretching table and was going to stretch it when I thought to myself – this really needs a little more blue over here in the right corner and I’m not happy with the darker area in the middle. So I took it back to the studio.

I took photos of it and started adding colors and lines to the work on my computer. I often do that because I needed to get a general feel as to what colors would look like if I added them. Looking back I wish I had seen this work as I do now – but I didn’t. 

So I painted over most of it and started playing with the computer again. Suddenly the dark area that I didn’t like became something I could use – it is full of texture and all those layers underneath.

I put a lot of white paint on the piece blocking out areas I liked. I put a deeper orange in the piece covering all the orange in the original piece. 

And once again the entire piece changed. I began to see a landscape. 

I went back to the computer and began to work on it again. At this point the work began to speak to me and I created with a specific intent.

And tonight as I look at the finished work – at least I think it is finished – this is the way it looks. How long did this entire piece take me – how can I answer that? All those textures underneath. All those layers. All those changes. 

Does it look like the studio clothes I was wearing when that well intentioned person said that my clothes were a work of art? No – I don’t think so. Lots of struggle in this piece. Lots of layers. It is thick thick thick with paint and texture and struggle. Wow what a difference. Change – this is change.

   “I keep the concept of freedom as I create.
I want my mind to be as free as a child
when they are choosing colors
from a box of crayons.
There are endless possibilities
as to what something could be."


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