The Devil in the Details

posted in: All, Art Lessons, USA, Work in Progress | 8

“Shrine” oil on canvas 36″x 60″

Twelve days from now, my paintings will be rolled up and stashed in the belly of an airplane. Traveling from Thailand to the US, our arrival gets us in on July 3rd, just in time for fireworks. Unlike me, the paintings will not suffer jet lag or need adjusting to a different climate. Language won’t be a issue, for images speak one of their own, universal.

But a bit of culture shock is inevitable. Moving canvases out of the environment in which they were created casts them in a new light. Literally. I must remember to be careful when opening them up, as colors may have shifted in flight.

After stretching the paintings on wooden frames, their size will appear diminished for they were painted flat, with borders splayed. Edges will need tweaking. And once the paint and brushes are out, who knows what else will call for revision?

But that’s all in the future. And seven thousand miles away. I still have twelve precious days—less if you take into account drying time—to finish the paintings.

How do I know when a piece is finished? After many years in the business of making art, I’ve come up with two answers: either I run out of time, or I run out of gas. When the outcome is purposely uncertain, it’s always a judgement call, if not a compromise, on where and when to stop. Ideally, it will be in an interesting place. That’s the best I can hope for because, you know, perfection is an illusive bugger.

And I admit, the end game is my least favorite part of the process. Working around the successful areas, I try not to wreck anything. Freedom starts shutting down. The small brushes come out and the focus narrows down to the details. Therein lies the devil.

Now I’m not suggesting details are inherently bad, but they are capable of seducing an unsuspecting artist into forgetting the all important bigger picture. Also, too many specific details robs the viewer of an opportunity to fill in the gaps, use their imagination, complete the equation. Creating form with a suggestion is the antithesis of detail. Relatively uncertain, but a lot more satisfying.

Regardless, the paintings and I prepare for lift off. Details to follow.

"Shrine" detail
“Shrine” detail

Save the dates:
September 3, 2016 “Kindred Spaces” Bainbridge Arts and Crafts Gallery, Bainbridge Island, WA
September 8, 2016 “Kindred Spaces Lecture” at Bainbridge Island Museum of Art 

Also: Upcoming workshops beginning in July


8 Responses

  1. Lorri

    Good luck with the exhibition, Amy. I wish we could come to the private view, but I hope you will be posting pics of the paintings in situ.


  2. Jimmy D

    Colors shifting in flight is a very cool metaphor. Very well written, you’re going to be a big hit!

  3. Rita Moffitt

    you certainly can bring me into your journey, every time. I can imagine looking at the paintings in a different light, location, frame or mind and seeing a different image!
    and I love what you said about losing yourself in the details…
    however, I am looking forward to your “level of repose” as sister Janet says. where the sand stops cascading and settles on the dune so to speak. It will be a wonderful place for sure.

  4. Chris Ackerman

    The work looks vibrant and exciting plus you obviously had FUN! Good luck with the exhibition and safe trip!

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