Let Yourself Have It


Lynn Pauley: “Why can’t your finished paintings be more like the pages in your sketchbook?,” J. Porter, an Art Director for YANKEE magazine, once asked me while I was working on an editorial assignment for him some years back. My sketchbooks are private, almost sacred spaces where secrets scribbles, blasts of paint, pasted found items and notes about my life are stored, collages and cataloged.

Studio postcardsHis question is one I think about and wrestle with daily; how can my current large scale figurative and landscape work be freewheeling, fun, filled with a sure sense of play, design, painted exuberance and direction? I never hesitate while working in my sketchbooks. (now almost 200 volumes of 100 pages each) Why does the work sometimes get stiff when going to a finished larger painting for show or an illustration commission?

My heroes are David Park and Richard Diebenkorn both members of the San Francisco School of Figurative Painters. Legend has it that Park was an ‘adequate and hardworking’ (his description )1950’s American abstract painter. Sensing a new figurative direction in his work, Park strapped every abstract painting he could find and drove his car to the dump and unloaded. Park left abstraction to paint large lush,’ sure’ figures. Following some interior intuition, he ‘gave himself permission’ to try something new.

Diebenkorn’s large scale figurative works also gave me permission to ‘wreck’. I was thrilled to realize that where one of his paintings might start as a portrait of a seated woman his process allowed for him to completely paint over the work and reconstruct it as a standing man.

Man to Man 300The pentimento of the original work then informed and built an interior or heart for the painting. Traces of the first figure were visible shining through in brilliant unexpected patches of color and line. In the breaking comes the breakthrough. Happy accidents and reconstructing the painting lets the painting itself guide the painter to the work’s completion.

But possibly the biggest moment of permission I received was in graduate school watching 5 year olds paint at the Children’s Museum in New York City. Our thesis professor let us watch as each child was given 3 pots of paint; red, yellow, and blue, a piece of large craft paper and one brush. Without hesitation, each child smashed their brush into the pot and started making a picture. They then took the same brush without cleaning it and jammed it into the second jar of paint and then the third. Their paintings were raw, immediate, joyous and without censor.

Umbrella girl left side rainAt the moment, I am working on paintings that are larger in scale for me. Bigger does not necessarily make it better. Sometimes being bigger just exposes the flaws in the structure; bigger let’s your neck hang out there a little bit more.

I think we all worry about what people will think. I think that the true courage, in making art is to give yourself permission to experiment, grow and fail. Let the painting and work lead you intuitively into the next phase. That is where the joy for me lies. Let yourself have it.

VCCA paintsThere is a certain exuberance in knowing it is ok to try and fail and to turn it upside down paint over and keep going.

In the “breaking” comes the breakthrough; a shining light illuminating the path ahead.

Lynn Pauley is a working artist and illustrator. She is the new Associate Professor and Area Coordinator in Illustration at Marywood University. This past fall she was awarded one of four exhibition prizes The Northeastern Biennial.

Pictured here, Pauley is currently completing a suite of large scale figurative pieces for her December 2016 one woman show at ARTWORKS Gallery in Scranton, PA.

You can see more of her work at www.lynnpauley.com/thevisualamerican

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