This chair, I killed.
Once I reached the version pictured in the last photo below, it seemed finished but it just didn’t “feel right.” I could not stop poking and prodding (process not pictured) until it simply sputtered and died:
Knowing that sometimes my best work emerges from ashes (surely a living parable for circumstances in life), I refused to give up.
But this is always a disconcerting time in the process of a piece. If I must move on to other commitments and leave it lying there helpless in my studio, I feel irritable and distracted. My subconscious, and a good portion of my conscious thought, remain with it applying CPR: add and subtract this and that color, try a pattern here or there, and adjust lines and flow.
For this particular chair, I referenced a couple books for inspiration: “Brave, Intuitive Painting” by Flora Bowley and “Spirit of Color” by Connie Smith Siegel. The trick when referencing other artists’ work, though, is not to attempt to channel their exact style – a surefire way to permanently kill a piece. For a piece to hold true integrity, you can only paint as you.
Speaking of referencing other artists’ work, I am embarrassed to admit: I completely forgot about Van Gogh’s chair when painting this series. Only when someone commented on Chair #2 did I look up his work. Flabbergasted, I discovered I even chose the same angle he did! Perhaps his chair lodged in a distant part of my brain many years back. Without a doubt, Van Gogh is one of my strongest influences.
In fact, when I visited the Denver Art Museum for an exhibition of Van Gogh’s work, I got in trouble for getting too close. I promise, I was not going to touch the piece. I was just so fascinated, after decades of admiring his work, to see the shimmer of a pencil line for real, live, in-person, that I kept leaning in closer. Oh, well, it was worth an uncomfortable moment with a security guard. That pencil line was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.
I grasped the first clue that this chair might resuscitate when I stumbled into a new vibrant green color-field behind the chair back. Then, referencing Flora Bowley’s book, I applied paint with my fingers (a new technique for me), which infused new energy and life.
I think it survived. As with all near-death experiences, I learned a lot.