Observations and asides

hayden-carruthUsually, when I  paint successfully,  I am working from a kind of craving, not out of a compulsion to get work done. I don’t mean a vague desire to have a finished painting to hang somewhere. (That’s closer to having a goal to achieve.) I actually mean the physical feeling of desire to spread paint on canvas, so that the act of applying the paint is a gratifyingly sensuous experience. I attended a poetry workshop run by Hayden Carruth at the University of Rochester once, when Carruth was teaching at Syracuse, and he said that writing poetry was physically pleasurable in a way he didn’t understand or try to explain. I’ve forgotten everything else he talked about, of course.

This isn’t true usually throughout the entire course of a single painting. There are patches and passages that frustrate me and seem to resist, but creating the image has to be delightful at some level for the image to convey any kind of delight to the viewer. It’s as if I can feel the image in my body as I’m making it real outside my body. And when I’m painting well, it’s as if I’m satisfying a physical appetite, not simply basking in a nice, warm emotion that things are going well, which is how I feel in many different situations, such as making good time on the highway, without getting stopped for speeding, while driving down to New York City. The act of driving itself is servitude and tedium: the notion that I’ll be spending less time doing it is what gives me a little glow of modest pleasure. Making a picture and watching its contours and colors emerge from behind my brush—it’s feels good in a purely physical way.

1 Response to “Observations and asides”

  1. Richard Harrington

    Like kayaking (or another really fun sport), and eating a really good meal, at the same time.