Something just didn't look right. Did I get the perspective right? Was his expression on point? Is it something in the background?
None of these internal questions helped me find the "something" that was off, but I knew in my guts that The Gas Jockey II had a problem.
Such is often the case when I'm painting. I always strive to push myself and grow as an artist and the contemporary artists I most look up to are those that continually reinvent themselves and think outside of their comfort zones. (e.g, Michael Reeder, Jenny Morgan, Basik). One vital component of achieving this type of creativity is making mistakes.
To err is human, but it is what that human does with those errs that shows their character. As I continue to explore the history of the worker with The Jobs of Yesteryear, I am continually searching out for new, subtle ways to enhance the visual narrative I'm spinning. One example is changing the surface I paint and collage on from canvas to wood panels, a move that I have been delighted with. Another, more recent change that some of you may have picked up on, is the use of graphite to sketch in some of the details in the background of my work. Both of these moves worked out to great effect, but the sailing isn't always that smooth.
And as I put what I thought to be the finishing touches on The Gas Jockey II, that nagging feeling that there was something off continued to well up in my guts. When my own eyes fail to solve a riddle like this, I often turn to my favorite fresh (dare I say inviting) set of peepers; those of my wife/muse/boss, Ashley.
As she gave my latest work a once-over, I stood anxiously by, still wanting to impress this fair maiden after nearly six years of marriage and ten years of chasing her adoration. Her reply was quick and to the point, "What's wrong with his arm?"
AHA! His arm! It made logical sense that the gas station attendant's right arm would hang by his side, similar to the left arm pumping the gas, but the fact that he was wiping the windshield made the posture look awkward and unnatural. His upper arm should be lifted, making it look like he was applying pressure to the rag.
I began work immediately on remedying The Gas Jockey II's arm. Luckily, the mistake was caught quickly enough that the glue hadn't had a chance to set. I carefully peeled the arm off, made a couple of careful cuts with my trusty X-acto knife, rotated the arm at the elbow, patched, painted, and re-adhered it. The whole process probably took another two hours, but I was so relieved to have finally found the culprit of my uneasiness and look at The Gas Jockey II with that satisfaction of completion.
In my studio, I follow a simple rule that I will never let fear of failure keep me from attempting to do something new or challenging. As a result, mistakes happen and are expected. I am not ashamed by them; rather, I'm proud to know that I'm challenging myself to the point where I am making occasional blunders. The Gas Jockey II had an ambitious pose. He was in the three-quarter turn towards the viewer and set in the scene between the car and gas pumps. It was a challenge to get the perspective right along with his posturing, and because I had refused to let the challenge scare me into switching his pose, I went for it and slightly missed the mark.
From these missteps comes growth and over time, they allow me to evolve and develop my distinct voice as an artist. And it is this bold voice that helps me celebrate and preserve the stories of these antiquated workers. May I never stop making mistakes in the studio and may their stories never be lost in the sands of time.
The Gas Jockey II found a home over Labor Day Weekend in Sausalito, California, along with The Elevator Operator II and The Lighthouse Keeper. I am truly humbled by the patronage and support that you all provide and I promise to continue to push the boundaries of my abilities, celebrating my marvelous mistakes along the way.