"Sometimes, looking back can help one to see ahead.
This is adapted from a post, "everything I know," I published in the original ART / LIFE blog, 9-1-10.
I am working on a series of nonrepresentational paintings inspired by the oyster shell.
They are based on the lovely mysterious shells, and on the process of painting them. About the feeling, the alchemy that happens when the materials, the vision and the presence all combine to become something else, that something being a painting.
The painting, the process of painting it, and the experience of seeing it. Oysters.
I said to a friend that this series is like a doctoral thesis, I am putting everything I know into these paintings.
All the variations, experiments, explorations over the years, I have distilled the essential quality that is mine and am putting that into these pieces.
We may think we are changing form(in our art), using different materials, different handling, but the essential, consistent signature of the maker will emerge.
This really hit home when I recently went back through some of my very early work, up to the stuff I am doing now.
I am so focused on what is ahead, the struggle to achieve something new that I often forget what I have accomplished along the way, fail to give myself due credit.
What I found in those past works was startlingly familiar. Some of the paintings I had done 15, 20 years earlier look so much like what I am doing now.
Yes, the skill was less developed, the styles are broad and experimental, but the impulse, the line, the core feeling is utterly consistent. .
I could really recognize a personality emerging in all the years of work: Me.
Honestly, I have to say, I was a bit taken aback to meet... Me.
And, to appreciate Her.
I could see a consistent sensibility developing, surfacing, whether the work was traditionally representational, abstract, covered in plaster, scratched and splashed, collaged, or whatever.
There I was...and am, still.
It was very interesting, and nice, really, to see this.
There... I... Am.
Matisse went back in his later years and looked at one of his first student, brown and grey Flemish still-lifes, and realized that that painting came close to containing everything he ever was. All there, already.
We all know his form changed, his style expanded and developed, but he could see, in that chrysalis of a painting, himself, already fully there. "I realised, thinking about it, that what I recognised in it was my personality. But I told myself that if I had only ever done that canvas, this personality would have remained unnoticed because it would never have developed." Matisse said.
Sometimes, looking back can help one to see ahead.
Everything I now know is there.
Artist, writer, workshop planner, swimmer, dog-mom, wife...I find inspiration in the serendipitous connections between making a meaningful, beautiful life and making honest art.
All work on this site is original by Diane Santarella Lawrence, unless noted, and is
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Many of the beautiful images taken in the studios of Skip and me are by Joel Kiester and Brian Eiseman of 1513Photo. Many thanks, Guys, for your friendship and elegant work!
And Thanks to my two biggest fans, my husband Skip Lawrence and Rothko the Wonderdog for constantly surprising, challenging, inspiring and supporting me.