Flitting from Painting to Painting

In progress watercolor of an abandoned caboose

Maybe I really shall finish it this time, just to show myself I’m not completely hopeless!”

Emile Zola, The Masterpiece

The quote above is the self-deprecating remark of a painter to his writer friend as they looked at one of his canvases in progress. Popular opinion holds that it is Cezanne speaking to his friend Zola. After years of reading about this novel, I am finally reading the work itself and finding it very engaging. I’ve always been interested in the creative synergy between Paul Cezanne and Emile Zola, from their childhood till the rupture of their friendship right after this novel came out. However, despite decades of reading about Cezanne’s work and gazing at it in museums, I have never until now read a word from Zola.

The quote above got my attention this morning because of my own habit of leaving many, many works incomplete. Last month while moving my studio to another room, I finally gathered all my scattered “in progress” watercolors and stacked them in two drawers of a lateral file cabinet. I didn’t count them, but I estimate there are over fifty. When I saw the quantity for the first time all in one place, I recall a jibe I heard once from an acquaintance who was observing my work in the studio: “Dave, do you ever finish anything?”

Maybe I have an Attention Deficit Disorder when it comes to painting. I doubt it though, seeing that I do indeed finish many of my pieces, and do a pretty decent job of pulling one from the stacks that is several years old, and finishing it with renewed interest. At any rate, I started two watercolors on the same day recently, and now decided to move to painting #2 while the fly fisherman remains unfinished in the midst of the stream.

This old wooden caboose is on the property of E & J Smokehouse and Grill at Spirit Ranch in Lubbock. We dined there a few evenings ago while it was cool outside, and afterward strolled the property. The setting sun cast an amazing light on this old car and I’m glad I climbed the hill for a closer look.

The reason I shifted away from the Colorado landscape to this painting is because this morning I was seized with the interest to pursue detailed, painstaking work in watercolor. This is something I definitely have to be in the mood to do. I love the medium of watercolor because it allows me to be splashy and spontaneous as a painter, and at the same time allows me to focus and work more as a serious draftsman. I especially enjoy doing both tasks within the same painting. And so, as I shift between the architectural details on the caboose and the splashy clouds and foliage enveloping the composition, I enjoy feeding both sides of the artistic enterprise.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

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