"Thoughts on Painting"

In Opposition to "Pale" and "Contrived"

I've been reading "Joan Eardley" by Christopher Andreae. The portrait he portrays is of someone with whom, I feel, I could have been easy life-long friends.

Black Sky with Blue Sea,, c. 1962-63, pastel on paper, 7 7/8 x 10", by Joan Eardley Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

Black Sky with Blue Sea,, c. 1962-63, pastel on paper, 7 7/8 x 10", by Joan Eardley
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

One passage in the book, and specifically two words, have stayed with me. The two words are at the end of the following passage:

"When in the 1980's Matilda Mitchell was asked to organize the works on paper still in the Eardley Estate, she became certain there were times when Joan drew the swiftly changing sky, for example, on successive sheets of paper. The drawing here [above] is a case in point. It belongs to a group of pastel drawings on small, identical pieces of paper with rusty drawing pin marks. Matilda surmises that Joan may have pinned the block of paper to a large board down on the shore, where she drew one image after another catching the rapid changes of sea and sky. Joan may have afterwards pinned them up in her studio as aides memoires. As her project developed, Matilda found it harder to 'ascribe a style or influence to what I saw.' Most drawings by British artists at the time, she felt, 'seemed by comparison pale or contrived."

"Pale and contrived"... two words against which I have recently been measuring my work. "Pale" is perfect descriptor for weak. It doesn't relate to value range or color key. It is a felt word, sickly and bland. It is easy to spot, as is "contrived," which is a much better word than anything I've heard to clearly communicate something made-up that involved too much trying and lacks truth, authenticity, transparency and vulnerability.

Stacy CaldwellComment