January 20, 2008

The dilemma of the artist’s wife

My wife is often placed in the precarious position of being my second set of eyes. Having spent hours working on a piece, one tends to lose objectivity and the dreaded “Well, what do you think?” is tentatively posed. As she stands there with furrowed brow, I can see she is weighing her options. There is something in the painting that bothers her. Should she say something and risk bruising the delicate artistic ego or say nothing and keep the peace? I usually can tell when there’s something bothering her. “What?” I ask. “You’re not going to leave it like that?” she says, pointing to that one stroke that invariably is my favorite little flourish. It’s a no win situation for her.
Yesterday was a case in point: “Well?” I asked. “Gee, I don’t know about that copper bar. I’m not getting the feeling of copper; it looks like a seascape to me.” Uh oh! She just placed a squirrel in my painting. Wait, what?
During the early days of the cubist movement, Picasso and Braque were great friends and would often critique each other’s work. I imagine their conversation went something like this: “Puits?” “Il est grand excepté l'écureuil.” “Écureuil, quel écureuil?” “Là à côté de la guitare.” “Merde!” (Picasso: “Well?” Braque: “It’s great except for the squirrel.” Picasso: “Squirrel, what squirrel?” Braque: “There, next to the guitar.” Picasso: "Shit!”) Not unlike a Rorschach inkblot, once an idea like that is planted in your head, nothing can get it out. The notion of the seascape was so strong I had to go back in and pick at it until it was gone. Happy accidents happen all the time in this journey we take as artists and this morning I had one of them. Determined to get rid of the squirrel (waves crashing on a not so copper shore) I wiped out the offending blobs of white which I had laid on with a small palette knife the day before. The crimson and cerulean hues had set overnight and had stained the panel. The effect was exactly what I (and Susan) was looking for. Had I rubbed it down last evening it would not have worked, but as it turned out, we had dinner plans that took me away from the studio. Oh, another lesson: Never, ever “pick” after you have been drinking. We’ve all been there: You’ve been out with friends, shared a few laughs, had a few pints, and later you walk into your studio to look at the day’s work. “Hmmm, that one stroke looks odd.” (My words, not hers.) I’ll just fix that. Oops! No problem, I’ll just fix that. Oops! and so on. …Don’t do it!!


Anonymous said...

love you and your wife

kaycrain said...

First off, Welcome to Dailypainters.com.
Loved your story. I think we all go through the same thing with our spouses.
I do figuratives and I've heard "ISn't his head a little too big" many times. ha!

Mark Adams said...

Thanks, Kay. I, too, paint portraits and it can be scary when the sitter (or my wife) sees it for the first time. Painting still lifes is easier on my nerves.