Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

The abstract flash

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My struggle is to preserve that abstract flash—like something you caught out of the corner of your eye, but in the picture you can look at it directly. It’s a very elusive thing. I’ll get it in a preliminary drawing, but then the more finished a painting is going to be in the end, the more I’ve got to get that momentary off-balance quality in the very base of the thing. For that, it’s got to get completely out of my control. When you spend months on a tempera, you’ve got to watch out the mind doesn’t take over the emotion. I do wild things—if somebody saw me, they’d think I was nuts, ruining it. Then I haul it back in, bring the forms and bones into reality and shapes—refine it. If it’s all just a placid development, to hell with that. You’ll get a normal, regular painting.

I’ll take weeks out doing drawings, watercolor studies I may never use. I’ll throw them in a back room, never look at them again, or drop them on the floor and walk over them. But I feel that the communion that has seeped into the subconscious will eventually come out in the final picture. Another thing I do—I’ll be working along and suddenly drop my brush, turn my back quickly and rush away and shut the door. I want to leave the painting while I’m in a state of wondering. Then I can dream about it all night, and the next morning I walk in and can tell in a second whether it’s crud or if I’ve still got it.

Andrew Wyeth, to Life magazine

Written by nevalalee

August 4, 2017 at 7:30 am

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