If It Gets Messy…

“…in time of daffodils who know…”
©2019, Molly Larson Cook
18″ x 24″ Acrylic on canvas


One of my favorite quotations comes from author Tom Robbins regarding life in general (at least that’s the way I always read it):

If it gets messy, eat it over the sink.

Given the way quotations so often morph from the original, Tom may have put this a slightly different way, but the concept works for me.  And it works for my art. Maybe too well.

True confession:  When I begin a painting, I almost always have something clean and simple in mind. Color is the thing, and I know what colors will work for this or that particular painting.  Ha!

I get those colors laid down and to my surprise it’s not what I want after all.  It is, in a word, boring.

Don’t get me wrong – I like simple paintings and I’m a big fan of Japanese sumi work, but for me and my own work, it’s just not enough.  Or right.

So I add some little thing.  Then I add some other little thing, always working to keep the balance, to keep it “pretty.”  This goes on for several days and I find one combination after another that I like and say to myself and whoever is within hearing distance: “There. I’m finished.”

But I’m only kidding myself.  I’m not finished at all.  I might even take a picture of the “finished” work to post here.  But I’m still not finished.

I know from writing that a piece of writing is finished when the writer says it’s finished.  It’s a gut feeling as much as anything else.

And it’s true for the painting, too.  At least for my painting.  Something in me does not want the painting – any of my paintings – to be too perfect.  Or perfect at all. I may be as much a deconstructor as a painter.

It’s hard to describe this, but as soon as I get a painting finished and looking “nice,” I leave it on the easel or against a wall and look at it, feeling more and more uncomfortable.  And the painting feels more and more “unfinished” instead of finished.

Ah, there’s the crux of this thing.  And we’re back to perfection.  Perfection, as in perfect painting, feels incredibly weak to me.  Strength comes in imperfection.  I look at what I’ve done and say Tom Robbins’ words to myself one more time.  If it gets messy, eat it over the sink.  And I enjoy every bite!

Hey, this is just me, but it happens every time.  There’s a rebel in me that says No to perfection.  But that rebel seems to know a lot more about art than I do.  And I wouldn’t give her up for the world.


The title here comes from an E.E. Cummings poem.





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