Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Problem Child

Recently, I read an article in Newsweek by Cathleen McGuigan in which she mentions Mark Rothko’s reluctance to part with his finished paintings. “He considered his artwork to be his children, and he didn’t like to send them off to live with just anybody.” Personally? I find this a little weird.

There are; however, problem children.

My current series of color field paintings came fairly easily once I figured out my approach to the woven field affixed to each canvas. I find a clue on how to proceed in the weaving and the paint flows. Usually. I do think of a painting as a problem child when I’ve lost my way in painting it. There’s always one problem child. My problem child is “Parchment,” one of my favorites.

We do tend to favor our problem children and pets more than the trouble-free ones. I don’t have actual children; I do have cats: Will & Grace. (I never said I was clever thinking up names for my pets. We also had Bill & Hillary). Gracie is sweet, loves to cuddle, hacks up hairballs with wild abandon and had major litter box issues. Will, on the other hand, is gentle, cute, makes no messes and comes when called! They’re both 9 years old. Gracie is my favorite. Gracie’s litter box issues have been resolved in the past two years (surgery was required). Hairballs are still an unpleasant surprise in the middle of the night. But, I digress . . .

I began talking about my problem child painting. “Parchment” was it. I began this canvas envisioning a very white surface filled with color. I wanted it to feel like the white of a pearl, the inside of an oyster shell or white, fluffy clouds; white without being white. The “feel” of white. Pearls and fluffy clouds are anything but white! They are filled with color if you look carefully. That’s what I was going for.

I was well on my way to achieving this with the painting. I used iridescent white for much of the canvas. I had about 20 layers of gel with the slightest touch of pigment. I would paint it on then scrape it off leaving traces of color on the canvas. Blues, yellows and greens were hinted at in all that white.

Red! It needs red! Did I tell you I don’t yet understand “RED”? I don’t. Fools walk in . . . I mixed up some reds in my gel and painted it on. I got side tracked. When I came to my senses and remembered the canvas, the paint had dried. It looked as if the canvas had been attacked by a can of tomato soup. I was ready to destroy the canvas, I was so upset.

The next day, I had a paint date. An artist friend and I get together once a week to paint, share a bottle of wine and talk all evening about art. I look forward to these evenings. I was telling Steven about my ruined canvas. He took a look at it. “Yuck!” I so appreciate discrete criticism. We both burst out laughing. Steven suggested I keep going to see what I could pull out of it. “It doesn’t have to be white.” Why hadn’t I thought of that?!?!?!?!?

I took Steven’s advice and continued working with my problem child. Like Gracie’s litter box issues, it began to resolve itself. (Horrible analogy, no?) I began to enjoy where we were going. As I painted, I pulled in light browns, amber and lavender. The red still shines through from the depth of the layers and it has become one of my more complex color field paintings. From a distance it looks like parchment. Close up, it has the multi-colored layers of a pearl.

I named my problem child “Parchment.” It also reminds me to not be so brittle in my thinking.

If you are interested in purchasing or knowing more about “Parchment” or any of my paintings, please respond to this blog, E-mail me at or contact me at my studio: 760-992-3157. You can see more of my artwork for sale at

Also notice that in celebration of my re-vamped website, I am offering “Sailor’s Delight” at a 50% discount.

Thank you for listening,

Jerry L. Hanson

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