Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Anything Goes

Shore Houses, 2007, Oil on Panel, 24x24

Yesterday's brief post about my hair in the paint led to some interesting comments. I started to write a response but it became as long as a post, not surprising given my chatty nature, so I thought I'd address the issue again in a post.

Chris mentioned that he was told by a gallerist that hairs in the paint are extremely irritating to them. I can understand this, as seeing hairs in certain kinds of work can be really distracting. However, if I heard this from a gallery that I am considering working with, I would take that as a big old sign that we would not be a good fit. My work is imperfect, messy, comfortable and full of texture. There are globs of paint on the sides of the panels, blotchy clumps of dried paint crud here and there and random gesso brush marks underneath it all. It would almost be unfinished if there WEREN'T a hair or two to be found.

I think most artists do what they can to get the hairs and whatever out of the paintings (I am particularly impressed with the efforts that Martha goes to, by cutting out the hair, sanding the ridge and reapplying the varnish. I have tried those sorts of things, but any kind of sanding will take my thin layers of paint right off so I am usually bettor off leaving it). But thankfully, we are not automatons and our studio environments are usually pretty relaxed. Pets are often included in the fun, not to mention expensive brushes that still lose their bristles. I have seen $20,000 paintings that are all slick and shiny and beautiful, but still have an occasional brush hair.

Personally, I love it when I see hairs and whatever in other artist's paintings. It's nice to know that others have the same issues that I have. And I love art that is so passionate that the artist doesn't notice or can't stop to pull out a stray hair before the paint dries over it. Seeing stuff in the paint gives it another layer of intimacy and a connection to artist and their environment. But while that is just my personal preference, what I love most about painting is that artists can do whatever they want, from having a warts and all approach to displaying their finest OCD tendencies, and everything in between.

So where on the scale are you? I think I am one step over from the warts and all approach. It's not quite anything goes for me, but it is close.


deb said...

As a textile artist and cat owner I can almost guarantee at least one tiger-striped hair with each quilt.
I go through a LOT of that brown packing tape - best hair remover.

Tracy said...

Deb, you should enclose a little card with each piece guaranteeing a cat hair with your art:)

I also wanted to add that whenever I see Jackson Pollock's work, which has all kinds of personal crap embedded in the surface, I feel really connected to him and his process and studio.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tracy,

I love this post. This is one of those things that every painter deals with but noone ever talks about.

I pull my hair back in a bandana when I paint. Brush hairs are another story. I usually pluck them out with an exacto knife but there are always those escape artists that go by unnoticed.

Chris Rywalt said...

I'm strange. (Newsflash!) I want to be OCD, but I'm just too lazy. I greatly admire painters who work with incredible detail and labor over effects and make sure there are no brush hairs and all that. But when I'm actually painting, I end up thinking, oh, fuck it.

gr said...

Tracy, I like a very tidy and professionally made pot, but as the Japanese do, I also like imperfections in a pot. It is something touched by and made by a human, and hopefully care and skill is evident, but still it has more charm when it isn't TOO slick. And those look like long sentences.

Tracy said...

Ha! Glad you are enjoying the topic here-I can always be counted on for this kind of conversation:)Actually I thought it was a pretty trivial post on Tuesday but it turns out that crap falling into paintings has a lot more meaning than it seems.

You are smart to pull back your hair. I never even think about doing that unless it is hot outside.

Chris, I think I am like you a bit, well except I have much more hair:) I often start out painting in a kind of noodling and precise manner, however after awhile I get impatient and let loose, not caring much about the details. Too impatient for any length of time I think.

Gary, I am with on both of those long sentences. I appreciate the charm too.

Lorna said...

500 years from now they will be prying it out to check for dna to see if it is a genuine Tracy. Finger prints in the paint is my 'sin'.

KJ said...

I dig them out if I see them but consider it to be a "sign the artist was there!" With all the giclee prints looking a lot like painted canvas... bet THEY don't have any hairs on them!

meno said...

*checking my painting (your painting) for hairs*

This is a fun discussion.

meno said...

It just occured to me that maybe i should check for chicken feathers.

Kris Shanks said...

I guess that's the advantage of taking a more "painterly" approach. No one will notice the bits of dirt, leaves, hair and what have you that get embedded in my paintings because there's so much paint texture. Before you think I'm a terrible housekeeper, I'm talking plein air paintings here.

Tracy said...

Lorna, the DNA thing sure crossed my mind in a fit of optimism that anyone would care about my work in fifty years! And the artist's fingerprints? Awesome!

Karen, I bet those giclees are done in clean rooms, all white and sterile with everyone wearing gloves and hair nets!

Thanks Meno, and if you angle that painting against the light just right, you will see every single flaw, oops, I mean mark.

But no chicken feathers!

Kris, good thing you clarified, I was starting to wonder. And believe it or not after all my ranting about the charm of leaving stuff in the painting, you have reminded me of one of the reasons I don't like to paint outdoors. All of the stuff that gets stuck in the painting drives me nuts. I am not very consistent, I guess!!!

Chris Rywalt said...

It reminds me of the scene in Lust for Life where Gauguin goes crazy trying to paint outdoors on a windy day.

Tracy said...

Chris, do mean the old one with Kirk Douglas? Boy, I haven't seen that in ages-I don't remember that scene either.

Chris Rywalt said...

Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn, baby!

I borrowed it from our local library, which has an excellent classic DVD collection, partly because I donated ten of my own.

Jayne Rose Designs said...

When I happen to have an extra hour or two in Chicago, I visit the Art Institute and you know what I find myself doing many times (without even realizing it)?

When looking at works of Van Gogh, Monet, Seurat, etc., I'm looking so closely to get the feel of that artist's actual presence...such as seeing a brush hair or something like real hair! Weird, huh? At times, just studying the brush strokes made by that artist gets me going.

What can I say....I'm a cheap date.

Toni said...

I've been reading your blog for about a month now and have so enjoyed it. What a fun topic to talk about. I know I have gotten hairs and who knows what into paintings. I know an artist who for awhile would put something in his paintings that related to his subject like dirt from the landscape he was painting. Nobody knew till he mentioned it.

Katherine said...

I'm with Karen - paintings need hairs and other bits of surface interest to demonstrate that they're not a giclee print.

Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with a giclee print - just so long as it's not pretending to be an original.

I wonder if the Kinkade toucher-uppers are allowed to waft hairs into a piece?

Tracy said...

Hi Toni, So glad you have enjoyed my ramblings!

It would be fun to just throw in a handful of cat hair into a painting. Someday!

Katherine, I am sure Kinkade would fire anyone who dares to put personality into his pieces:)