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Hunting for Your Perfect Line

I really love the beginning of a painting. So much so I’m often tempted to just make a few exploratory marks and leave it the way it is. Who knows, maybe that’s a direction I can play with in the future. Like some extreme gesture exercise or something. My friend Bill Stoehr does something like this in a figure painting session I used to go to. Bill specializes in 8-foot-high paintings of faces and they are absolutely phenomenal. They need to be seen to be fully appreciated because they have so many layers and hidden passages smaller formats like your computer screen just don’t capture all the amazing texture and depth of his work.

Bill was fascinated by the idea of capturing an entire figure or pose to one or two simple, fluid lines. He did this on his iPad with his fingertip, or on an enormous piece of paper with an equally large piece of charcoal, and it was really fun to watch. Most of the time I thought he expressed the idea brilliantly the first time, but that didn’t stop him from making several dozen more explorations during the same session. He always said he was on the hunt for the perfect line. And apparently finding one didn’t stop him from trying to find another. And another.
I think about Bill and his fantastic spirit of exploration when I paint sometimes, and especially when I teach painting. I wish there was a way to easily convey the simple idea that the best way to improve is to keep going, and to make mistakes. Especially make mistakes. Lots of little ones. And when you start to develop, one by one, the skills you require to bring your artistic vision into reality, keep going!┬áDon’t forget to enjoy your progress, but also, don’t let a little thing like being satisfied with your work keep you from the joy of hunting for the perfect line. There is always another one to find.
Above is a progression of a new painting on my easel right now. It’s probably one of the last in my red kimono series (you can find them on my website and at RS Hanna Gallery). It’s a detail of a 36″x18″, cropped to about 12″x 7″. In a way, I could have stopped at any of these points, but I chose to stop at the third. Why? I think because at that moment my instinct for exploring and expressing this particular passage had been satisfied, and there were other parts of the painting to explore and develop. But I don’t want to speak too soon. It’s still not done, signed, framed and out the door. I still might get the urge to find one more perfect line here. And that would be just fine.
  2014  /  Blog  /  Last Updated May 29, 2016 by Julie Petro  / 

1 Comment

  1. Modern Celt says:

    Hearing how an artist thinks as they begin or progress through their work fascinates me. The idea that there is more than one “perfect line” is fabulous in relation to so many things.

    Thank you JP.

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