Sometime in the next two weeks, I am going to begin work on a painting that is 8’ wide and 5.75’ high. The subject matter will be based the story of the loaves and fishes. There may be a piece of meat, a pastry or a bird thrown in for good measure. I have never worked on a painting this large before, and the task seems daunting. Due to the scale of the painting, there will be much preliminary work: sketches and photographs, not to mention the preparation of the surface itself.
Because I have been interested in multiples and repetition, working the work will be, at times, tedious. I am reminded of a story I heard this last winter:
A conservator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art has dedicated the last twenty years to the restoration of a single mediaeval tapestry. During this entire period, she has been able to work in only one-foot increments at a time. Until the recently completion of the restoration, she has seen the tapestry in entirety only once.
What an extraordinary example of patience, dedication, trust and surrender. My completed works never exactly reflect my original intention. I run into trouble and work and re-work a painting when I apply a death grip to my desired results. Because I have grown more confident in my instinct and practiced in my ability, I am more comfortable not completely knowing the final outcome of the work. I will continue to reflect on the conservator as I make my long journey through this painting, knowing that, in the end, everything I do is just practice.