It's very instructive to shift the scale of your work and look at it with fresh eyes. It can be dangerous to venture into a bigger space because of all the unknowns, the terrain is alien. Lately I've had many occasions to look into the unknown. To help me through all the changes around me, I've painted, drawn and made collages. The painting above is a revisit of a smaller earlier version (see image at left) of a scene I painted almost a year ago (I wrote about it here).
I decided to work larger this time, which I find produces effects in the work not possible on smaller scales. A lot of this has to do with how we make marks and how they relate to the bodily movements that produce them. The most recent version has a different presence because of it's size. I find that the bigger the landscape is the more it invites me into what I think the real space would be like. As though the picture has more to say to me for a longer period of time. Similarly, looking up a mountain is different than looking down off the same mountain into a valley. From that high vantage point you might even see that there are even bigger mountains, painted with grander more sublime scenes. It's easy to miss the rest of the world, when we're lost in the shadow of our near-by hills.
A lot of what I've thought was safe in life turns out to be small or just familiar. It's easy to stay where you are, just don't do anything. But when you do this, you miss how wonderful and huge the world around you is. When you work out into the world you discover the beauty there on a scale you hadn't been able to see before. There isn't necessarily anything wrong with being where you are or something being familiar. What I want to emphasize is that that's not all there is. And those things that you know that are familiar and admittedly wonderful and beautiful are things you can come back to again and again. Your ties remain to those people and things that you knew so well and that left a permanent mark on you. But don't miss out on what you could know. And when you've explored that terra nova, you have a new chapter of your story to tell and an invitation to extend to others.
It's been several weeks since I last painted. Overwhelming is a fine descriptor of the semester of teaching I just finished. I picked up an extra class this fall because of staffing shortages at my school and I began to feel the effects very quickly. One effect was a diminished energy level all around. Less reading, less exercising and sadly less painting. But during the Christmas break I have had lots of time to slow down, refocus and devote time to art.
Every time I paint I'm reminded of how therapeutic it is for me, how it heals me from my wounds and exhaustion. I know also that the works I make will continue to have an effect on me and others down through time. This is my legacy. When I was ten years younger I hadn't an idea about legacy and its importance. Art is a way for me to contribute to culture, to make something with enduring presence and formative power. This knowledge of the future world I'll shape helps keep me going.
Click below to enlarge the various states of the painting's development
J0hn Hunter Speier
Recent work, and explorations of techniques, aesthetics and poetics.