Why Do You Paint What You Paint?

Why Do You Paint What You Paint?

Class notes from Reinventing Your Creative Process with Andrew Long, Fall 2007

I am so going to miss these classes with Andrew Long.  He said this would be a life-altering experience, and as grand a claim as that may sound, he wasn’t kidding.

My work changed fairly dramatically after taking the first version of this class with him last spring.  I started aiming again for complete abstraction (often my first love when viewing art) — just playing in the studio, and following the brush where it led.  I was experiencing a real joy in painting – not that I haven’t usually over the past decade or more, but now I was giving myself permission to explore with a new kind of freedom.  Some of the paintings I did in the past 6 months or so have been more successful than others, and I do really love them.

But when presented with questions like, “why are you painting what you’re painting?”  “Are you saying something?”  “What’s the difference between this painting and wallpaper or a tablecloth or whatever?” — I had to take a step back, take a good hard look, try to evaluate my own work without that proud attachment of “I did this” achievement. It’s been a very painful week of soul-searching.

I have no idea if I’m ever going to be a painter who does more than pretty paintings to decorate your living room walls with.  But, my concerns are deeper than that, my interests are broad and varied — I hope I can finally find a way to incorporate all my visual interests with the less visual topics that fascinate me into a cohesive body of work — my own world of interests, coming together in a beautiful visual language or world of my own.  Why not mix abstraction, representation, diagramming, mapping, and all visual forms of communication on the same canvas?

Give me 6 months, a year, maybe two — or perhaps more — and let’s see if I can really re-invent myself this time into a painter that bears paying attention to.


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I have also come to the conclusion that the square is a human invention, which makes it sympathetic to me. Because you don’t see it in nature. As we do not see squares in nature, I thought that it is man-made. But I have corrected myself. Because squares exist in salt crystals, our daily salt. We know this because we can see it in the microscope

— Josef Albers
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  • I truly love this one, Marilyn. It’s amazing, watching your transformations through your painting career.
Gallery of Recent Paintings
Untitled 2015-003 - Oil on Canvas - 12 x 10 - © 2015 Marilyn Fenn Untitled (2015-005) - Oil painting by Marilyn Fenn Color-Mini 2015-030 Oil on canvas 6 x 6 © 2015 Marilyn Fenn Composition Number 9, 2013 - Acrylic on panel -  9 x 12 -  © 2013 Marilyn Fenn