Having the courage to make your mark
Oils on stretched canvas, 40 x 40 inches
I was recently reading the new book out (‘Clear Seeing Place’) by one of my favourite artists – Brian Rutenberg – and read with interest his thoughts on a common mistake made by inexperienced artists – that of putting down a brushstroke (or mark) and then proceeding to kill it stone dead.
I know exactly what he means. I’ve done it myself, of course, and I’ve seen it done more times than I can remember. And, darn it… it’s so easy to do. You lay down that luscious, confident stroke of paint, only to dive straight back in with your brush, scrubbing and blending away until every last vestige of life has drained away from it.
I never realised I was doing it until some kind tutor somewhere along the way told me to stop… take a breath, and leave the mark alone. I must admit, it takes a long time to feel comfortable doing this, and a fair amount of guts, but eventually it becomes second-nature and you’re rewarded with work that retains its life-force.
I’ve been thinking a lot about mark-making lately and endeavouring to more bravely commit to the marks I make. A friend and wise mentor once asked me where ‘I’ was in my work, and it seems to me that I can be found most clearly in the marks I lay down.
“Make a brushstroke, leave it alone, clasp your fingers behind your ass,
and take five steps backward.”