I've spent the better part of the last 10 days working on a painting for my class. The assignment was that we were to make an abstract painting, a "re-imagined master painting", inspired by artist Jay DeFeo's painting, "The Rose", completed in 1965 after 8 years of work (reproduction at the left of this post). This massive, 8' x 10' painting, had a sculpted surface. When completed, it weighed in at 2,000 pounds, and required dismantling the San Francisco apartment in which DeFeo lived so it could be moved and shown. It has been described as "heroic, epic, legendary, tragic, Promethean even". It resides permanently in the Whitney Museum in New York, but it is rarely shown due to the difficulty of keeping it in good condition.
It has been fascinating to watch my classmates grapple with trying to paint something that works for this assignment. It has been a huge process of trial and error and trial and more error watching myself grapple with it! I originally thought I would do a close-up of a cactus plant, and started out painting in greens and blue/greens. A bit of purple began drifting in, and several rows of wire bristles were placed down the spines. More layers, more hours of work. After awhile, everything looked flat and colorless and dark, and dull. I had gone way too far. I began to place a few dots of lighter color on the surface, and next thing I knew the painting took on a life of its own. It now is a predominant blue/violet, with tiny bits of magenta and golden yellow. Most people who see it think it looks like some under-sea creature, or a starfish, or an imitation of an aboriginal work. It's not what I had in mind, but I sure learned a lot in the process - I guess that's what it is all about. Oh, and mine is 30" x 48" and weighs almost nothing!