In Medias Res

“It is important never to forget how crazy painting is.”

There. I did it. Took the plunge, and started my first post. I’ve been afraid to start, afraid for so many reasons to put myself out there like this, in the big scary worldwideweb where anyone – anyone! – could find me. When I’m not at all sure I want to be found. (Well, maybe I’m starting to.)

So here I am working away in the studio, day in, day out, like the industrious hermit crab that I am. And the old saw about a tree falling in the forest (no pun intended) with no one to witness it came to mind, and I started to wonder if I existed. That is to say, I don’t get out much. I don’t have a gallery (yet), and to date I’ve been incredibly reluctant about letting people into my studio, and equally disinclined to let the work out of my studio. A large part of this is simply not feeling ready, of not having a completed, coherent body of work that’s ready to stand alone, ready to be seen. However, I have to acknowledge that art is made to be seen. By more than an audience of one. Otherwise, what is the point?

And if I don’t start allowing some exchange of traffic in and out of my studio soon – friends and ideas, if not the general public – then when? I may not be ready to start approaching galleries, but as I work slowly but surely on these paintings, perhaps I can allow friends & sympathetic readers virtual glimpses of the long process involved in making each painting, and thereby also a picture of my daily life.

So. To show and share my progress and process as a painter. But I felt a bit paralyzed about starting, not only because of shyness, but because I wanted my first post to somehow perfectly capture what I hope this blog will be, and be about. This, I realized, is of course impossible, and is why all those great epics started in medias res. When there’s a long complicated journey involved, and an uncertain ending, if any, there is no clean and clear beginning of things. There is only the middle of things. We have to parachute in and from the messy state of things on the ground slowly make sense of what came before, and begin to envision and shape the things that will follow. Any overarching meaning this blog may eventually come to have will be the gradually accruing sum of this process, with time, and the incremental accumulation of words.

Just as paintings take shape, through the gradual accretion of marks, and time, measured out in countless hours in the studio.

It is important never to forget how crazy painting is. People who buy paintings, or who write about them, tend to think painting begins in the cosmopolitan world of museums and art galleries, and that its meanings are explored in departments of art history. But painting is born in a smelly studio, where the painter works in isolation, for hours and even years on end. In order to produce the beautiful framed picture the artist had to spend time shut up with oils and solvents, staring at glass or wooden surfaces smeared with pigments, trying to smear them onto other surfaces in turn. Painting is peculiar in that respect.

James Elkins, What Painting Is (Ch. 6, “The studio as a kind of psychosis”)