Saturday, February 19, 2011

ArtTraveler hits the wall (with paint): Are painters afraid of a blank canvas?

"Perfect Storm," Stefan van Drake 2006, tempera on ancient Moorish masonry.

"The canvas has an idiotic stare and mesmerises some painters so much that they turn into idiots themselves. 

"Many painters are afraid in front of the blank canvas, but the blank canvas is afraid of the real, passionate painter who dares and who has broken the spell of 'you can't' once and for all."
Vincent van Gogh, October 1884 in a letter to his brother Theo.

The wind howled and whistled through many gaps and holes in my doors and windows of the ancient partial ruin I called home in Corumbela, near Canillas de Albaida, 650 feet above sea level in the mountains..

It nestled up against what was once the village mosque, still intact but a Catholilc church since Isabella and Ferdinand's Reconquista liberated it by force in 1488.

Water dripped from the leaking roof into a concept art collection of about 10 pots and bowls strategically positioned on the floor.

(The more time I spend at Tate Modern, the more I think the pinging of rain drops into cheap metal bowls, each resounding with a different tone and pitch, could have been installed there.)

"Child at Play," arcylic concrete walk, Stefan van Drake.
Earlier that day in Competa at a small hole-in-the-wall store of very cheap bits and bobs, I found about 30 small jars of blue, green and red (plus a few yellow and black) tempera paint, perhaps discarded from last year's first grade art class.

I knew I had to have them. And cheap: all for 5 Euros.

I didn't know how I would employ them, but somehow I knew there was a final destination stirring within my subcionscious.

The answer came later that day.

The February storm pelted the earth mercifully to quench the thirst of a land wanton with sun, immersed in drought. I felt relieved. I like rain in measured amounts but harbour little desire to live in Scotland.

There's something soothing, emotionally cleansing and tranquil about a heavy rainfall, especially against a metal roof.

Outside my casita there's a 1,200-year-old Moorish wall, thick, deeply wind-worn and mortally wounded, part of Corumbela's ancient rampart, complete with holes through which to fire arrows at your foes.

It was a tortured and textured bright white surface, one resiliently reflective of another magic age (711 - 1492).

Suddenly, it occurred to me. The wall. The white blank wall in my tiny garden overlooking the valley semed to call me: Paint me, paint me, what are you afraid of?

Well, something like that.

I changed to my swimming suit, bare feet, grabbed a large brush and my jars of tempera and enjoined battle at the wall for my perfect creative storm.

Many of us share happenings like this when it just seemed the right thing to do at the time even if you had no clue how it would all turn out.
All above photos by Stefan van Drake.

After seeing Tate Modern in London a couple times last year, my mural, a "Perfect Storm," reminded me of the cannon shooting hefty round globs of red plastic goo against an untextured whtie Tate Modern wall, for fun and for effect and for profit.
My inner child took control.

I manically splatted tempera on the ancient wall and watched rain melt the colors.

With my brush I dibbled  and dabbled and swished and swashed away, breaking one colour into another, concentrating my blues with reds for purples--one area after another, non-stop until I ran out of paint.

Took about an hour.

Was this happening a part of what van Gogh called "artistic neurosis?"

When I lacked ability tp buy canvas, as I did then, empty and available spaces lured me into confrontational behavior with them and later, my landlords, who had no clue about my proclivities.

Regardless of result, process loomed more important than product.

After the wall makeover, I stared at my concrete walkway to the garden. It seemed empty, pale white and wanting.

Next day I was busy splashing acrylics and messing about. Today, I named this questionable work of art: "Child's Play."

That is the artist's bottom line? Child's play. Having fun. Isn't that at the core of what we need and want?  Some of us are better at it than others and have great managers, wealthy patrons, enterprising agents and gallerists or institutional buyers as well as astute PR people.

Then there's most of us.

But all of us must be having fun.

Van Gogh's work ethic never waned nor his hunger for growth or improvement or his lust for colour.

He believed in himself.

In1888, he wrote brother Theo:

"The day will come, however, when people will see they (his paintings) are worth more than the price of the paint and my living expenses, very meagre on the whole, which we put into them."

Rock on and practice peace and love.

P.S. None of my four murals, one outside, three inside, survived landlords' wrath and repainting.

See ArtTraveler videos on YouTube. Follow trails and travails of Dutch walkers Joost and Rob on their pilgramage from Seville to Santiago de Compostela (Via de la Plata).

Consider an art traveler week-long workshop in the mountains of Andalusia at a mosaic or sculpture workshop or a walking holiday. See:

Stefan, the ArtTraveler(TM).

No comments:

Post a Comment