Well, here it is a bit more than a month into this year-long commitment I have made to myself. I suppose it’s as good a time as ever to reflect on what has come of it so far.
I have decided to organize the paintings into the 8 seasons of the pagan calendar, each of which are approximately 45 days. Originally, I thought I would categorize month by month, but because I didn’t start on the first day of an arbitrary month — rather, I started with the winter solstice — it felt more appropriate to work between the four major celestial events of the solar year. In the pagan calendar, those four seasons are divided into two sub-periods. We are currently approaching the middle point between winter solstice and spring equinox, otherwise known as Imbolc on February 1.
Justin designed and created a special envelope to hold each set of 45-ish paintings, and I hope to have each envelope color-coded according to the season. This first one is temporary, but I had to start somewhere to protect the paintings. Eventually, this first one will hold all the pre-project paintings, as it, too, is a prototype.
I am hoping to find just the right material and corresponding color for each of the eight periods of the solar calendar, but I have not yet found that material.
I had an observation about the dating of each piece. When I finish a painting, I date it in the lower right corner. After a couple weeks into the project, I found that my handwriting on the paintings really bothered me.
At first, I couldn’t tell what it was about it that bothered me so sincerely: it felt too dark, too personal, maybe even slightly affected by my mood. Reflecting deeper on it, maybe what was bothering me was my personal judgement by way of my handwriting. For example, maybe if I liked the painting, I would use a stronger pressure, or maybe I would make the date smaller and tighter, more hidden.
In any case, I think I was projecting some kind of unconscious bias upon the work, and I found the hand-dating inconsistency profoundly bothersome.
Justin found an old numbering stamp that we had; I inked it up with leftover watercolor and its soft, automated effect was exactly for what I was looking.
With the number stamp I cannot project my approval or disapproval on my own work (and therefore my own self). Further, I find satisfaction by inking the stamp with the watercolors; it resists enough to document, but blends enough to not interfere. I also enjoy the semi-automated, consistent quality of repeated numbers (at least in size and shape), almost like a serial number which, to me, suggests commodification upon something that which cannot truly be commodified.
As I would walk around the neighborhood “cloud catching,” I noticed that it was increasingly difficult to find a reference without industrial debris like wires, poles, light fixtures, street signs, or buildings. I started to purposely incorporate these elements, specifically electrical wires and tops of buildings: all these things were “in the way.”
I started contemplating the luxury of an unobstructed view: who had it and who desired it? In fact: who deserved it? I recalled a distant argument by some rich people somewhere about “their view” obstructed by electric windmills, a public good they didn’t mind consuming, but didn’t want to see. With the ruckus they made, it seemed as if they felt that the eyesore of the public good belonged to those without authority to oppose it. I suppose that is also in the way.
And who am I to reject the mass of tangled wires above my every view, so engrained in my personal skyscape that I almost can’t see the sky without them. Embedded from my earliest memories strewn across the back seat, legs half-folded, counting poles along Interstate 5, mesmerized by the weaving wires that leaned into automated irrigation systems and countless white crosses of military cemeteries: this, too, is in the way.