Friday, August 24, 2007

Emotion and Painting--The making of "Red Sno-Balls"

"Red Sno-Balls", Oil on Panel, approx. 6x6 inches
Jerry Lebo, 2007

I had promised the red Sno-Ball painting would be posted yesterday--but it was much harder than I thought. I was convinced these little red balls would be much easier to paint than Twinkies, and I think technically they are not any harder than "Fig Newtons"--so why did they take so long? Here is my theory, in sum:

The more emotional or connected you are about something, the harder it is to paint.

Let me explain. I know, it sounds strange, but these two guys were the epitome of everything I loved in my childhood--cake, creme, and marshmallow, all in a tight little package. Sure, I like Twinkies, but when I was seven years old and had a dollar in my pocket--I would ride my bike down to the store and the one junk food (beyond straight candy, which always was preferred) that I could not take my eyes off were the Sno-balls. I can take or leave Twinkies, since we sometimes had them in our lunches--and there was often a box full of them in the pantry at home. I've also never been a big fan of candy bars--so these are not a big problem for me. My mom loved fig newtons, so they were always around--nothing special. The one thing I could only get on my own, and needed my own funding to get, was the Sno-Ball. Everybody wanted these--imagine showing up at school with these babies in your lunch! The Fig Newton and Twinkie kids would turn green with envy.

Okay, your saying I am making this up. Bear with me. I must also confess I have a hard time drawing or painting my own family members--and have done only one self-portrait in my entire 20 years or more of painting. So there you have it, a bit of a confession. I admit that the more emotional or connected to something, the harder it is for me to paint it. My reasoning will make sense to you if you are an artist. Painting is about seeing objectively--and dropping all pre-conceived notions about the subject you are painting. You must be able to see it as pure color, tone, and light planes. If you think you know what you are seeing--it is the first step to disaster in painting. You must learn to drop all of what you think about an object, and only see what is actually there. I am convinced that all the master painters of the ages had this ability.

So, for Sno-Balls, I am sure the emotional connection has stymied my painting thus far. Only today have I been able to see these little balls of cake as they were. In previous session, my eyes were clouded by associated feelings and memories of what I was painting. Today, as I stepped to the easel, I resolved to look at these guys without thinking or feeling. To simply look at them as they appeared on the still life stand--not as I wanted them to be--so sweet and good and youthful. Almost immediately, the parts of the painting that I had been struggling with for several days, suddenly came quite easily and the painting came together to a nice finish.

So there you have it. Confessions of an emotional painter. A struggle to see with my eyes, and not to see what I think is there, or should be there.

The good news is that I think this bodes well for the Pop-Tarts and Snickers bar that I will do in the next few days. I do not have any overly fond associations with these. But I do worry about that Hostess Fruit Pie...which I can taste with my eyes through the wrapper. When I was young, it was the only rival to the Sno-Ball for my attentions. Will I be able to see it as it is? Browns and oranges, with a dark alizarin center--or will it become the irresistible sweet pie of my youth--clouding my vision and challenging my brush. I vow to fight--but I am sure that I will need to stay focused as I take that first bite and place it on the stand. For a painter, it is always a slippery slope: to see it, not to eat it, with your eyes.

All the best, sixtyminuteartist.


13 comments:

life-draw said...

Hi Jerry. Glad to have found your blog and love your painting. Please keep it up, I'm tuned in.

Simon.

sixtyminuteartist said...

Simon, thanks for tuning into my blog. I see you are in Sydney area, great place--was there in March. Jerry

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