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The Cutting Edge (Art)

I just finished teaching my first art methods and material class, the second set of private lessons for the season, my paint is probably drying in the garage fridge as I write this, and I haven’t painted for a week. That is since discovering that I had, unknowingly, mixed lead white with cadmium yellow and ultramarine blue (not an archival color combo). My museum friend was kind enough to assure me that the sulphur was probably well enough bound in the pigments so as not to turn the lead white to black. I was still sad, though. It was a black lemon kind of day. Plus, how is it I don’t already know all this? I mean it’s one thing to be a naive beginner and make these mistakes, but after 25 years? Am I still really that ignorant about painting? Does ignorance never go away? Maybe that’s why impressionists used simultaneous contrast. Maybe they knew their new fangled cadmium colors didn’t play well with lead white, and that’s why they painted them next to each other, instead.

I was telling a student tonight about positively programming our subconscious with the mantra “painting is fun and easy, paintings is fun and...” even when it’s not. We all make mistakes, but mistakes can be corrected. Each new painting is our next masterpiece. But, this was the scene of an accident. You cannot tell from the outside, there is no white paint turning black, yet, but I crashed a painting. Is it totaled, could I repair the damage, paint over it with titanium white, maybe? I don’t really know. It could be like a dark under painting. Or, it could be like those black cows images in those cave paintings. Maybe they were originally white cows.

It’s all a big lie though, anyway, painting is. Like a movie or a novel, it’s not reality. If 10% of the worlds population write fiction, make movies, and paint... that’s like 10% of 10 billion people or a billion professionals whose livelihood relies on having the audience suspend belief of reality for their own entertainment, and that’s not to mention the other 5 billion gamers enjoying it. What’s one bad painting when I had to make 100 or 1000 in order to get good? Not many movie producers get to make 100 mediocre movies I think.


A billion years ago the planet was unspoiled but Homo whoever was probably busy playing with fire for survival and here we are today with a billion fakers getting by. And, it’s the real good fakers that make bank, too. The better the ruse: the bigger the reward. Psychological robbery, mental pick-pocketing, really.

Sadly, the cutting edge of art was probably somewhere around 70,000 to 30,000 years ago. There is evidence Homo (X_omo) was making pigments something like 100,000 years ago. So, doing the math, they had like 30,000 years of practice smearing paint on themselves in order to perfect painting before they even laid a handprint to a cave wall in an act of graffiti. Most likely it was an oil paint, too... animal fat and pigment, although the fat binder has since evaporated. So, I shouldn’t complain about only having 2 or 3 thousand years to get this stuff right. And, it’s changing all the time.... this new thing and that new thing, or technique, or material, or what have you. You want your art to be last forever, micro plastics! That’s the cutting edge of pollution, anyway. But nobody else has figured out how to paint a rock and have it last 70,000 years, yet, except Homo whichever one it was, and the images are not bad either.




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