Robert Goodnough's classic 1951 narration of Jackson Pollock's studio process.
In addition to documenting Pollock's now familiar drip technique, Goodnough also reveals the lesser known aspects of Pollock's method. Goodnough writes: "The final work on the painting was slow and deliberate. The design had become exceedingly complex and had to be brought to a state of complete organization. When finished and free from himself the painting would record a released experience. A few movements in white paint constituted the final act and the picture was hung on the wall; then the artist decided there was nothing more he could do with it. Pollock felt that the work had become 'concrete'—he says that he works 'from the abstract to the concrete,' rather than vice versa: the painting does not depend on reference to any object or tactile surface, but exists 'on its own.' "
Another entry in the seminal Paints a Picture series: Elaine de Kooning provides a first hand account of Hans Hofmann's process and approach to painting.
In a richly detailed narration, De Kooning records Hofmann's technical studio practice punctuated by his comments on painting: "Hofmann has evolved no rules for the making of a picture. On the contrary, always on guard against intellectualism and virtuosity, he says: 'At the time of making a picture, I want not to know what I’m doing; a picture should be made with feeling, not with knowing. The possibilities of the medium must be sensed. Anything can serve as a medium—kerosene, benzine, turpentine, linseed oil, beeswax…even beer,' he adds jokingly. ...'Painting, to me means forming with color,' Hofmann states. His first stroke of color is very important since it may be visible in the final version of the picture, and so, for Fruit Bowl, No. 1, Hofmann spent considerable time studying the still-life before picking up his brush... 'A work of art is finished from the point of view of the artist,' says Hofmann, 'when feeling and perception have resulted in a spiritual synthesis.' "
Thomas B. Hess' records the tortuous evolution of Willem de Kooning's seminal painting Woman I, 1950-52.
Hess writes: "The painting’s energetic and lucid surfaces, its resoundingly affirmative presence, give little indication of a vacillating, Hamlet-like history. Woman appears inevitable, like a myth that needed but a quick name to become universally applicable. But like any myth, its emergence was long, difficult and (to use one of the artist’s favorite adjectives) mysterious... It would be a false simile to compare the two years’ work that resulted in Woman to a progress or a development. Rather there was a voyage; not a mission or an errand, but one of those Romantic ventures which so attracted poets, from Byron, Baudelaire, through Lewis Carroll’s Snark, to Mallarmé and Rimbaud... The stages of the painting which are reproduced on these pages illustrate arbitrarily, even haphazardly, some of the stops en route—like cities that were visited, friends that were met. They are neither better nor worse, more or less 'finished,' than the terminus. They are memories which the camera has changed to tangible souvenirs. Some might appear more satisfactory than the ending, but this is irrelevant. The voyage, on the other hand, is relevant: the exploration for a constantly elusive vision; the solution to a problem that was continually being set in new ways. And the ending is like the poets’ ending, too; the voyage simply stops."
Hilarie M. Sheets visits the studio of painter Pat Steir to document the creation of a new painting.
Sheets observes: "Steir stands back again, studying the canvas, before moving to the left side with the ladder. From her perch, she pushes gobs of gold pigment from the brush across the top of the canvas to the middle dividing line, then pours more gold straight from the bucket over it. From another bucket, she throws straight turpentine, which eats a couple of dark openings into the opacity of the gold. Then with the brush, midair on the ladder, she shoots from the hip, flicking calligraphic arcs of golden spatter onto the canvas, over the dense, metallic tendrils."
Irving Sandler's studio visit with painter Joan Mitchell, Part of the seminal Paints a Picture series, re-printed as part of the ARTnews 110 anniversary.
Sandler witnesses the creation of two paintings by Mitchell, writing: "if nature supplies the raw material, [Mitchell] then sifts it through memory to convert it into the essential matter of her art. But not all remembered scenes are equally significant. There are those fleeting moments, those 'almost supernatural states of soul,' as Baudelaire called them, during which 'the profundity of life is entirely revealed in any scene, however ordinary, that presents itself before one. The scene becomes its symbol.' Miss Mitchell attempts to paint this sign, to re-create both the recalled landscape and the frame of mind she was in originally. Memory, as a storehouse of indelible images, becomes her creative domain."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.