About a week ago I painted an octopus. Not just any octopus, this one was climbing over a rock wall for several minutes in daylight as a we followed, taking photos. It was an incredible dive experience for us. Something about the images just fascinates me and draws my attention over and over.
I chose to do wet-on-wet, or “alla prima”, completing the entire painting in one sitting. A few hours passed happily, and I was genuinely pleased with the result. I posted it on Instagram and Facebook. Still, subconsciously I must have known it was lacking pizazz since the caption mentioned “I might sit with it awhile”.
This morning I glanced at my octopus in passing, as I’ve done every day since it was finished. It looked so…flat. Impulsively I picked up a round brush, uncovered the palette for some ultramarine blue, and set about glazing in darker shadows. Titanium white highlights and some caustics (the wavy light patterns on the top of the back when near the surface) hopefully brought the eye forward.
It’s very hard to wait to pronounce a painting finished. As George sings yearningly in “Sundays In The Park With George”, “Finishing the hat…and then there is a hat…Look I made a hat…where there never was a hat.” There’s a sense of accomplishment and pride that goes with creating something new. Sometimes, though, I just have to sit with it and trust that underneath somewhere the brain is finding a solution to the problem of “finishing the hat.”
Or in this case, the octopus.