Well, maybe not so much hate, but dislike relationship with the canvas. I recently came across an article entitled, “Hans Hofmann Paints a Picture,” with the subtitle, “Recording Hofmann’s physical struggle with the canvas.” I immediately became intrigued with this title, because I too have a certain physical struggle with the canvas. Besides, Hans Hofmann, is a very wise and widely respected artist. I thought it would be interesting to see his point of view on his relationship with the canvas, as well as analyze my own relationship with the canvas.
In this article, Elaine de Kooning states that Hofmann creates a painting by “working with astonishing speed, never sitting down, constantly in motion between his palette and his easel, applying his paint with broad, lunging gestures” This, in my mind, is exhausting to listen to, let alone carry out. So I can imagine how difficult it can be to paint with such use of movement. I personally have limited movement that I can physically do due to my fibromyalgia (FMS), and I must be able to sit down while painting because of the pain I constantly endure.
Kooning goes on to mention the process and types of materials used by Hofmann as he creates a painting masterpiece right in front of her face. The way she describes Hofmann’s movements and reactions to his work as he continues to aggressively place the paint on the canvas makes me feel as if I were also there watching him and studying his every move. The small soft-haired brush he begins with in order to create the painting’s structure quickly turns into a bunched up piece of gauze smeared with yellow, white, and red paint. What fascinated me is how she mentions that he often uses a palette knife, his hands or, anything he sees around because, says Hofmann, “a brush is a great limitation.” Then I wonder if I have been allowing myself and my creativity to be limited by choosing to only use a brush. I may do some experimenting with using different materials to apply paint to the canvas.
When painting on canvas, like Hofmann, I too have a physical struggle. I blame most of my physical struggle on my FMS pain, but I feel that most people who do not paint do not understand an artist’s physical relationship with their paintings. There is a lot of push and pull and give and take involved with getting the correct color in the correct way onto the canvas. I often find myself mixing and twisting and turning in different angles just to get the paint to do what I mean for it to do on the canvas.
Painting is not only a physical struggle but, moreover, it is a mental and emotional struggle. It is my belief that a true artist will always be mentally and emotionally attached to a piece of his or her artwork whether positively or negatively. Some of my paintings make me feel happy and energized while others give me feelings of despair and distress. But what I often find is that I go through a whole slew of emotions throughout any one painting including but not limited to love, animosity, happiness, sadness, excitement, and dissatisfaction. These emotions range from how far into the painting I am, how successful I am able to portray my vision, how long the painting is taking to create, and the actual subject of the painting itself.
When I finally finish a painting I am either deeply satisfied with it or deeply disappointed with it. I will even admit to abandoning some of my painting in the middle of them because I do not like the way it looks. Sometimes, I will eventually revisit the painting with fresh and optimistic eyes. Other times, I will decide to never look at it again. Either way, I usually make my peace with the canvas and then move on to the next project. In her article, Kooning recounts Hofmann’s words. ‘”A work of art is finished from the point of view of the artist,” says Hofmann, “when feeling and perception have resulted in a spiritual synthesis.” This, in my opinion, is true of any artist and their artwork.