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Break Glass In Case Of Emergency

24x48, oil on cradled birch panel - this is "Sea Glass".

There's a quote attributed to the French philosopher Voltaire - "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."

Voltaire, an author, was making the point that our human fondness for trying to get things "perfect" is a quick path to madness and missed deadlines. Chasing the perfect kills many an artistic endeavour.

I find myself repeating that quote - "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good" - like some sort of meditation chant while in the studio these days. The longer I paint, the harder it becomes. Ironically, the more readily I am able to summon up the skills to execute a painting, the more difficult it becomes to conceive new work. I always want this painting to be better than the last one I did. And the constant chase for the better brushstroke, the better composition, the better everything tends to quickly amp up the oxidative stress on creativity.

Worse yet is the body count "the perfect" has amassed when it comes to ideas.

I prefer not to talk about what is on my easel with any detail until it is well underway, well past some undefinable point of no return. As for talking about a piece that is only in the planning stage? Huge mistake.

I'm sure it makes me seem cagey but, at that point of the process, the rough edges of the idea make it particularly vulnerable. It is the process of polishing the idea that builds the carapace that allows it to survive the trip from neurone to surface. But, early on, anything short of an "OH MY GAWD!! THAT IS THE BEST IDEA EVER!!!" level of reaction from the person I'm speaking with will often deal a mortal blow.

Which is actually how this painting came about. This is not the painting I had intended for this panel. But I blabbed to someone about the original idea I had in mind for it and the next thing I knew alarm bells were going off in my head and I was running down the hall, breaking the glass and grabbing the fire extinguisher because: Emergency! Danger! Danger! And so - instead of the original idea - I ended up doing a sequel of a painting I had done earlier this year.

I've lived in British Columbia over half my life. Total number of British Columbia landscape paintings produced? Five. Three managed to escape the studio. The other two, uhhh, no longer exist. This is not by happenstance. I haven't found a way in when it comes to representing the landscape here. I can see the beauty of the land. Or, maybe more accurately, I can look at it. But, if it is saying anything to me, it speaks in a language I cannot decipher.

And so I end up with something like this painting. Half landscape, half still life. It isn't that I'm not happy with the piece. I think it accomplishes what it sets out to do. Still much closer to good than to perfect. The sort of thing that an advocate of the middle course, like Voltaire, would likely approve.

But does compromise have any place in the making of art?

I go back and forth on the issue - at least until the end of the month when the financial realities of art making inevitably swamp the romantic ideals and the need to produce becomes imperative.

What's the line from that song? Ah yes...

"It's not always rainbows and butterflies, it's compromise that moves us along."

See you around the studio.

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