Wrestling with rocks

1For a time during the last months on this blog there has been a lull. I’ve been doing other things, prepping some houses, tackling the To Do list, and working on a painting. This image is 48 inches by 60 inches, acrylic on canvas. There are some other paintings at my MobileMe site.

After painting a first – previous – version over months, stripping away distracting and facile bits of imagery, greenery, extra rocks and unclear bits of river in the background, painting over this and that, I was so fed up with the picture I stripped it off the stretcher and started again, hopefully with a clearer composition more focused on the bits I found interesting.

So a second start, and after months again, here I was actually audacious and confident enough to sign the thing, thinking I was done. Ha ha.


I can’t count how many times I painted the rocks over. I just couldn’t get the feel I wanted and they remain dead, dead in the water.

By this time I begin to include bits and pieces of the previous canvas for texture and motion in the water, and begin to consider how I can work that technique into the rocks. Carefully I lay down strips of the old rocks to show the striations and repaint again and again to try to bring them alive and wet. Just one more bit of fussing and I know it will be better, just one more bit of fussing, just one more… No, the damned rocks are still dead, like turds.


Repaint, reshape, fuss… And then, and then, I see the problem.

Dynamite. I need dynamite.

They aren’t useful. They aren’t helpful. They stop your eye from seeing the picture. Get that pot of gesso and paint them out. Blow them away. A painting in progress, not finished, started six times, and now in a brand new middle. And I can see where the thing should go now that the boulders are out of the way.


I’m clever enough to know I shouldn’t paint when I’m tired. I screw it up. I should be clever enough to know I can’t – don’t anymore – paint  realistically, and damned certain that I should never pretend to paint something real without a real reference, and I should be aware of the trap I fall into when I get fussy.

Always, I have an image in mind, a feeling, a motion – and it’s much clearer now, when the things I think I need, that I thought I needed for the ‘story’, for the content, when I see that they are actually in the way.


  1. That might be the most honest description of the creative process i’ve ever read. I feel like I experienced both your frustration and your breakthrough right along with you!

    Besides your visual intelligence and talent, my simplistic translation is this: you just weren’t feeling those rocks. Glad you blew them up.

    I love that you’re painting so much these days :-)


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