Sunday, October 17, 2010

Cymbidium hybrid

This orchid gave me an inordinate amount of trouble to paint. The pencil drawing was easy. I ignored everything you're supposed to do and put the focal point directly, exactly in the middle of the picture, and cackled with glee. I was very happy with the drawing. Then I went away for a week on an archaeological dig (pictures forthcoming one day when the findings are published), and when I came back I had to start painting.

First I stared at it for a couple of days, afraid to mess up my beautiful pencil drawing. Then my cat saved me by planting a couple of muddy paw prints on it. It couldn't possibly get worse, so I got going. I painted and painted, but I never reached that meditative zone you find yourself in when things are going well. By the time I was about halfway through, all the flowers got pollinated and promptly died, the culprit being a slug that had stowed away on the plant when it was brought indoors. So I worked partly from bad printouts of bad photos I'd taken of the flowers before going away, and mostly from memory.

I consoled myself with something C. S. Lewis wrote (just don't ask me where; I think he was talking about certain kinds of Biblical textual criticism) that one can labour over a piece of writing, and the end result can appear spontaneous (or vice versa). I told myself that being in a bad state of mind while painting doesn't necessarily mean that the painting will be bad.

I'm not sure about that any more, though. Eventually I finished the picture and thought it wasn't so bad. Then I took it in to the exhibition I painted it for, and it just didn't measure up to the other entries, even to my own second entry that I hadn't sweated over nearly as much. So maybe feeling good while painting does matter after all. Next time I don't feel like working on a painting, I'll use this experience as an excuse to procrastinate... just a little.

I like the last view - leaves with dead and/or eaten bits are so much more fun than perfect ones.

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