ruining things for practice

Monhegan Lobster Cove

I might have mentioned that I took a handful of acrylic paint on vacation to my brother’s island (not that he owns it, but that he lives there year round, unlike the cascades of artists, birders and other tourists that arrive in summer) this past summer. It was a surprisingly intense learning experience. I made a point of painting every day, as much as I could before I felt I was missing something important. Learning new ways of seeing and representing things is exhausting. I’d work in the morning, come home for lunch and a nap, do some more work in the afternoon, and then sleep hard all night, frequently with dreams about paint or brushes or trying to paint with a sewing machine.

Monhegan wall

I brought these home and left them alone for a while.

When I experimentally added stitching to one of the pieces I was unsure about, something interesting happened. So I added thread to a few more of the small pieces, but I was “saving” these larger ones for something, until I decided I wasn’t. So now I am experimenting with adding thread to all the painting I did last summer. It is related to the work I’ve done before, but it also feels really different.

I can tell I have dozens of things I can experiment with. I could paint on softer fabric, more like the cotton I usually use for stitching. I could use fabric paint instead of acrylics for canvas. I can alternate paint and stitch and see what happens. My head is whirling with possibilities.

My hope is to learn something from stitching into all the paintings from the summer. They aren’t important enough to keep the way they are, and I am learning a lot while working on them. so they have become fodder for the next step, the next thing to learn.

If I leave them alone, they’re still not finished. If I can ruin a couple, I’ll have a better idea of what to do the next time

One thought on “ruining things for practice

  1. Lee, no painting is important. And every painting is. The work is splendidly full of life and truth. That stitching is like the silver and gold leaf great bakers put on sweets. Go for it, go for it, go for it.


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