Leon Golub was an awkward man who made ugly paintings. They’re about power mostly. Violence, war, and other unhappy things. I learned about Golub in art school, around the first years of the internet. What impressed me more than his large scale work and hard edged process was his collection of reference images. Golub had file cabinets full of organized reference photos. I started a file cabinet of my own, and anyone who knows me knows I don’t do things just a little bit. Like Golub, I filled several file cabinets full of potential reference photos from magazines, sketches, photographs, and a lot of stuff printed off the internet. Those files became their own goliath art project, and taught me to make time to prepare, and to organize. My work relies on intention, and until I can draw entirely from my head, my work relies on a collection of images. It also was the beginning of a continuous long lesson that eventually I need to stop collecting ideas and actually put that brush to canvas.
To put things in perspective, I spend 99% of my time thinking about a painting. I don’t mean procrastination, although that happens too. I mean before I start a painting I work out what I want to say, how I want to say it, how big it’s going to be, what colors I’m going to use, what process and style will be implemented, and where it fits in with my other work. I no longer use the internet and magazines for my references. I take photographs. I take lots and lots of photographs. For every 1 image I use as a reference photo there are 500-1000 (I’m not exaggerating) that didn’t make the cut. I work all this out, prepare, and then as soon as the brush hits the canvas the Unplanned parts begin, and Things happen. Without all that prep work I’d feel lost, but because I have something to work with (references and a set intention) I can let myself get blown around a little, and trust it will work out.
Ok. Time to paint!