© 2020 by Alison Darrow.

Yeah, but is it art?

January 12, 2016

My initial plan for Fiesta Moon was just to brighten and reinforce the colors, maybe play with the effects that years of weathering created, but once I got started I wanted to do more.



This piece has always felt unfinished to me, floorcloth or no. I like the crude splashy approximate lines created by the rubber-cement resist that I used to let the white canvas show through the ink, and the cracking and crazing in the varnish is a gift (how often do you get to weather a surface for 20+ years?), but it’s still so raw. That stark dark green border needs to be lightened. I want to incorporate a lot more Mexican imagery, take it in a more papel picado, Dia de los Muertes direction. I envision layers of translucent, half-glimpsed suggestions rather than blatant representation. I’ll use stencils (as I used to), a technique that Shepard Fairey has perfected. My next shopping trip will involve exacto knife blades, precut stencils of tiny stars (if I can find any), and a light table.


But even while I’m playing with the notion of doubling and flipping the moonface, creating a ghost skull/wrestling mask on the dark side, my hands are actually painting a stenciled border that is downright dimity.


It looks like stiff, constipated Early American wallpaper. And I’m nose to canvas again, my brush tangling in my clothes. This is definitely the wrong direction; I need to step back and fling things at the canvas, not embroider it! Where I’ve experimented with paint more loosely, like with the interference blue around the outer border, it’s more to my liking. I’m tucking that peacocky effect away for future reference…


The dialog in my head is an argument between the part of me that wants to just restore a useful household object and the part of me that shouts “Mistakes become technique – if you will only MAKE the mistakes! Go on and really play with all those new toys you got!” My evil inner voice sneers “You’re just dabbling in decorative arts; this has nothing to do with craft, nothing to do with mastery.” And I say, “So WHAT? I’m learning; of course I’m not a master now. Maybe I never will be. I’ll just keep experimenting, thanks.” I need to decide today whether to apply a glaze to fill in all of those surface cracks. I’m thinking it needs a bit more work in the places where the paint and the glaze have both weathered away first, to take advantage of the raw surface’s thirst for pigment.


Oh, and last week’s unfinished canvas? On second look, it’s not so awful after all. For a beginner.

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