First Avenue After a Rain
2006-12, Oil on Canvas, 38"x 34"
This is a painting that I've been working on (or better put, not working on) for the last six years. I have returned to this painting often. Assessing. Working on problems in my mind, both real and imagined. The painting is large and dark. It taunts me from its own corner of the studio. Peering out from the painting rack, heckling me. It dares me to work on it. It get's especially nasty when I work on other paintings. Such vile language. I'm not really surprised, it was after all, born in New York.
Sometimes I bring it out and place it on the easel, giving it an audience. I allow it to openly mock me. I beg it to be patient, giving my tired old excuses, "I ran out of paint thinner" or "I don't have the right brushes" or my favorite, "I don't have the proper amount of time to devote to you right now. Soon, I promise." But the painting is inevitably returned to its rack untouched, fueling its rage.
Today, I once again placed my old nemesis upon its dais. It laughed openly, almost snorting. Of course, at this point I get the joke. The joke is me. This time, however, I had a renewed sense of purpose. I had come to realize that unless I finished this piece that I would never be able to focus on my work the way I once did. There would always be that distraction. I quietly rolled out my palette stand. This gave the painting pause but the laughter returned, louder. I could make out the words "Fat boy thinks he's a painter!!" I slid open the drawer and removed several tubes of paint. The painting was now in full guffaw. Holding its sides, pointing in derision. I started pulling out brushes. Tears were now streaming from the painting. It could not catch its breath. I then produced several painting knives. The laughter came to an abrupt stop. The sobs of laughter gave way to a loud, deep gasp. I forgot what happens when you pull a knife out on a New Yorker. I now had its attention. I started using a rather long thin knife, (a stiletto of sorts) to mix several colors one of which was a blood red. This did not go unnoticed. Several other paintings were now watching. The Peeps, normally an impassive bunch, were looking at each other with puzzled looks on their faces. This was fine with me. You can't let paintings get too comfortable.
The painting was now putting on a show of bravado, but I could tell that it was a facade. The laughter was not as loud and was more of the nervous kind. The tears had given way to sweat. I stepped back one last time to make some final decisions. It was then that I noticed the look of resignation on my long time tormentor. Finally I began the process. The beginning of the end. The canvas of course said nothing. I could hear a dozen or so drawings calling from deep inside the flat files. Two oil pastels were jeering the painting. Apparently it had made a few enemies along the way. I worked steadily for the next four hours stopping only to change the music. I knew that the painting hated Jazz so I went from Brubeck to Coltrain to Parker. Usually I just go from Tinkers to Evers to Chance, but today was special.
After a quick lunch of cold, pepperoni pizza (the painting hates garlic) and coffee, I returned to the studio and walked in on an argument between the Cooties and several of the Broken Bowl paintings over who would get the newly vacated rack space. The consensus being that the painting would certainly be shipped back to the city from whence it came.
I worked for another two hours until I was satisfied that I had quieted the beast. I poked it a few times and heard nothing. Selecting a small round sable brush, I began to sign the work. Midway thought the "m", a low grumbling voice said, "You're still fat."