it’s all over but the delivery. all i did today were a couple of scribbles on the back of the book / fin, and another coat of varnish. i’ll post pictures tomorrow when i take it out into the sunshine and load it up on my truck to deliver to the aquarium for auto-quality clearcoat polyurethane. and then it goes to the boutique marriott right across the street from the atlanta library, in the historic carnegie building. you should stay there sometime; it’s near everything, and will have this cool tourist attraction all its own in the lobby.
i did learn some lessons from doing the prior two dolphins, which i finished over the winter. these two dolphins took four months to complete, and were ornate, built-out works of art. this dolphin took one month, and was as simple as i could make it.
that’s lesson one. make it simple. streamline it. strip it down to the bare metaphors you’re working with and put those on with a minimum of detail.
there’s some sort of inverse-square rule about how much detail at how many feet viewing distance. i know that the resolution on billboards is ridiculously low – 42 dots per inch – when photo quality is 300 dpi, and that’s because you’re looking at it from a hundred yards and more, and when you look at a photo, it’s usually in your hand. screen resolution is only 72 dpi, and that’s plenty for looking at pictures on the internet, which your screen is about 18 inches away from you. anyway. in the case of public art, less tends to be more. too much and it’s fiddly. too little and it’s an ad. so there’s a balance.
did i mention that i worked at the marriott? it was back in 1979, and it was at the flagship twin bridges hotel in dc, and i worked in the kitchen. they had their eye on me for management, because they kept moving me around, starting me in cold prep, and then grill prep, and then grill, and then employee lunchroom, and then hot side, and i was being included in cook training sessions. i could have had a career there, had i stuck to it.
but i can say that about everything i’ve ever done. i could be a recognized expert in astrology if i’d only written that book. et cetera.
what i have done is art. and that has led to obscurity, and that’s fine with me because i’m just hanging out here making art. of many kinds. and since living is an art, i include that too.
lesson two is that i know what i’m doing. i may not know that i know it, but i’ve been studying art materials and methods for, let’s just count. since 1982, and that’s going on thirty years hahahahahaaaha. boy it’s gone quick. i’m constantly floundering while i’m working on a project, constantly wondering if i’ve just taken a step that will completely ruin what i’m doing. but for the most part, i end up doing the right thing, and it looks better than i’d planned, and i’m pretty pleased. except for the projects that fail entirely, and oh well.
just as in sudoku. sometimes i get almost to the end of the puzzle, when suddenly there are two 9s in a box, or none. and there’s no point in going any further trying to figure it out, and there’s no point in retracing my steps, because i can’t, and there’s nothing to do but draw a line thru it and go on to the next puzzle.
which is lesson three. keep moving. take the whole painting to a consistent level of finish. don’t work on one section until it’s finished and then move on to another section and work on it until it’s finished. except that i certainly did that with the marriott dolphin.
the reason you want to do this is because you’re never sure when it’s going to be enough. if you keep it evenly developed, then you can look at it and say okay, just this and this and we’re finished. you can do that a lot, and eventually you will be finished.
but the way i did it this time, i was sure what i wanted in every section. i had separate references for four sections of the marriott dolphin. i had very good reference photos for the library building, i was able to use a few quick strokes to establish the bland acreage of the red bellhop‘s jacket, and it was a natural thing to paint in most of the building in one concentrated piece of work. i didn’t finish it, but i brought it up to good enough, and then moved to the books.
i had specific references for the books – too many as it turned out, and a very narrow range of books was represented in the end. only atlanta history and the library history, only books you’d find in the original atlanta library that old people remember going to as youngsters. except for the list of popular novels, some of which were just published a few years ago. but they’re likely to be the only ones people will recognize, and that’s funny because they’re the only books that don’t remotely look like what i’ve painted. the library books are faithful reproductions, words and all (not necessarily legible), and the novels are just written in over a very distorted paint job (distorted because it’s at the place where the legs flatten out into the flippers).
lesson four is not to sweat the small stuff. don’t try for verisimilitude, don’t stress out on the detail. less is more, the eye makes the connection really fast and anything more than a quick sketch is too much detail. which is why i didn’t go for readability on the books. in general, nothing has to be painstaking. this is public art, it’s not going to be studied. it’s going to be seen for a moment, and it has to be broad enough to be understood at a glance. so he’s a building on top, a bellhop in the middle, and a bookshelf on the bottom. and even from a distance, even from down the street, he’s going to be a bellhop.
come to think of it, lesson four might equal lesson one. oh well.