Some paintings almost paint themselves, and some give you a run for your money. This one had as many lives as a cat, and there was one time for sure that I looked at it and thought, “If this belonged to someone else, this could be done right now”. But it didn’t feel resolved to me in any of those incarnations.
Here are some of the bumps along the road to the finished painting.
I began knowing that I wanted to include a road reflector that I found while I was running (my first road run, actually) in Maui while on vacation. As soon as I picked it up, it reminded me of my father-in-law. I ran back to the hostel with it in my sweaty hand, brought it on the plane, and knew it would appear in a painting. I even thought I (sort of) knew what the future painting would look like: the reflector would be anchored in a cream-colored space. Somehow, I ditched the idea of the reflector and went in a different color direction.
I played with various items I found on the road. Nothing seemed to work exactly.
I had seen a diagram of a fuel injection system and components that I really liked, from a graphic standpoint. I confess I don’t know anything about cars, but wish I did. This diagram reminded me of my father-in-law and I tried working with image transfers of one of the diagrams. The transfer didn’t work but some of my painted lines from that phase stayed in. For a while, I abandoned the idea of the reflector, fuel injectors, and even my father-in-law, and went down a rabbit hole that involved these lines becoming abstracted ladders and then canoes on the water.
After taking that oh-so-seductive detour (it was the boats that I thought could have stood alone – but only for a different artist), I got back to the roots of this painting. The reflector returns. Also, I decided to stand firm on my current interest in patterns, hence the stripes.
With at least six entirely different versions of the painting under the surface, I thought, I have nothing to lose! Throw it all in there. Italian wall posters came out, both for their graphic and color interest, as well as the ties to my previous work, and my trips to Italy with Mia.
I had to build a special housing to hold the road reflector in place while the glue dried (it’s very heavy). In the end, the fuel injection system came back, but it’s so stylized that I’m probably the only one who can see it in the finished product. Another “road kill” found object from the side of the road makes an appearance. The final version actually came back around to my original intention to record some thoughts about my father-in-law and our special relationship, and this is where it needed to be all the time. Those unnecessary detours were necessary, I suppose, to convince me that I was right at the beginning.