How to Make a Painting

 Here’s what to do if you would like to make a painting like mine:

1.  At the lumberyard, beg them to sort through the stacks of birch plywood for panels which have the least warp-age and knots. Have the wood cut to size. Sand down the rough edges in the studio.

2. The panel may then be coated with white tinted gesso or transparent acrylic gel.

3. On a clear, sunny day, find a place to draw near but not amid vehicular traffic. Prop the panel on the trunk of your car and make a drawing on it with pencil. Don’t take too long; stay loose. Don’t get hit by a car. Try to think about how the world looks in 2014. Try to be simple but never to be cute.

4. Back in the studio, seal in the drawing with a coat of transparent acrylic gel. Allow it to dry.

5. Clarify the drawing and begin to add color, preferably those compliments which will vibrate  optically the most, keeping in mind all that you have learned from your teachers during 4-1/2 years of undergraduate and 3 years of graduate work. Keep your brushes clean and the paint unadulterated. Mix new colors and try to surprise yourself with them. Play with transparent versus opaque passages. Scrape through opaque topcoats to reveal colored underpainting. Glaze, scumble and drip the paint. Use it thin and liquid and make thick impastos.

Think about the Old and Modern Masters you admire.  Think about Persian miniatures and Asian carpets. Think about Matisse and Picasso and remember Josef Albers. Recall German Expressionism. Stay calm and try to see what you are doing, not confusing it with what you hope you are doing.

Think about various genres of music, especially jazz since it depends so much on improvisation. Consider the various experiments you have made with picture making over the last five decades and think about which ones failed and which you’d like to try again.

When the vibration of color seems to imply light, see how you can make the forms in the painting  pass from darkness to light  in some orderly way  in the way  it feels to drive a car through the landscape.

After several day’s work, when you have covered  the panel with color as best you can, carry it from the studio to your dining room. Try to see it in this more neutral environment. Try not to notice the desperation and frustration rising in your gorge. Note what seems intelligible and what does not. Look at it upside down. Look at it in dim and strong light. Look at it close up and from far away. Try to love it as you would your child who surprises or shocks you.

The next day, take it back to the studio and try to make the unintelligible aspects of the painting coherent and strengthen the aspects which already are clear.

Take as many days painting on it as necessary until there are no annoying sections. Repaint as much as necessary, underpainting with white when you want a bright passage over a dark one.

6. When there is nothing else to be done on the painting, give it a coat of transparent acrylic varnish, taking care to seal the edges. Allow to dry overnight. Date the painting on its reverse.

7. Give the painting a coat of petroleum based , UVL protective, removable  final varnish. Try not to plotz from the fumes. Dry overnight.

8. The next day, repeat #7.

9. Go back to the lumberyard and buy 12 foot poplar 1×2’s, being careful to match the natural color of the wood as closely as possible, and to see they are not twisted or warped. Buy 12 foot 1×2 pine molding.

10. Back in the studio, glue the molding to the 1×2’s and clamp with numerous spring clamps. Dry overnight.

11. Take molding and painting to framer and have her cut and join the molding into a custom frame.

12. Back in the studio, glue the painting into the frame and weight it down for 24 hours.

13. Lay the painting on its face on a non-scratching surface like a rug. Glue reinforcing blocks on to its back. Allow to dry for 24 hours.

14. Put screw eyes into the back of the frame and wire it for hanging.

15. Hang the painting. If you can, try to hang a group of them together. Try to see where you have succeeded and where you have failed with the painting(s). Resolve to do the next one better, to make it visually stronger and more expressive.

16. Place the painting where other people can see it and hope they will respond to it in some way. Try to be neither disappointed nor surprised if they don’t. Get to work again.