Fuck You and the Painting Process
By Devin Allen, 10 march 2016
There are ten thousand pathways to God, and similarly there are as many ways to approach painting. One such way that I encourage my students to employ is the raw, create and response method. A lot of people naturally take to this method, but actually it’s quite advanced. The artist needs to understand their process and skills to make this method work efficiently, I was going to say less painful, but in reality it’s still painful.
A few weeks back I had a student going through this exact style of self-imposed torture and the rare opportunity for me to engage in this process in the classroom presented itself. For some crazy reason, I did not find this process painful at all, maybe it’s like that when creating of a “fuck you” to the world (I was mostly responding the absurdity of Valentines day.)
What I am hoping to illustrate here is the organic process I described in a previous paragraph; none of these steps were premeditated, each was a reaction to the one that came before it. Here’s the setup, it’s important further on in the story. I inherited my classroom from a teacher who left in a hurry, his predecessor had been in the position for near thirty years; even after five years the room was not completely sorted through (I still open boxes and find different forms of treasure.) A different student had been experimenting with a gesso and plaster mixture hoping to achieve a certain effect with her painting. It didn’t work and I was left with a bucket of goo.
I thought I may as well use it to prime a canvas, it may have an interesting effect. In applying the primer, I became aware of its impressionable quality, a bit like stucco or fresco and I asked myself the question “What can I press into this stuff?”
A treasure I unearthed a month back was a set of cookie cutters in hearts, and moon, and clovers, and now my brains starts to roll along. I more or less think Valentine’s Day is a bunch of hogwash created to separate a fool from his money, I jump at the chance to make fun of it. The only upside of this holiday are those candy hearts and now I knew exactly what I’ll do with that heart cookie cutter, impressionable surface, a dislike for capitalist pigery, and a love of the chalky candy that appears like mushrooms after a rain this time of the year.
I selected the appropriate size (the one that could give me a grid) and pressed away. My mind was already considering terrible Valentine’s Day messages and as soon as my hands were clean I’d start brainstorming.
Through applying the primer, the concept had now taken shape and moving forward would be fairly easy. I knew which colors I would need, low key pastels in pink, green, blue, red, and violet; and the type of message I would be sending, nobody really loves you on Valentines day. Decisions made themselves at this point, color is easy to mix when you know what you want as is spreading it across the surface when you understand unity and variety. The only difficult part was deciding exactly what to say. I am fortunate enough to have the punk rock version of students, at least in spirit, who were more than happy to help me compose these Valentine’s Day messages. We collectively brainstormed a good hundred. Wonderfully terrible things like “Of all your friends, you’re the best kisser” and “Oh, you were serious?”. Editing for size and effectiveness, execution, and we were finished.
I wrote this article to illustrate a process, and while mainly descriptive I hope that it illuminates one method of painting, or really, making art in general. A professor once said to me “Have a conversation with your painting” which is a very good description of this process. I hope this has helped, I also hope you like the painting. It’s not technically fabulous but in content it’s good fun.
See the rest of the individual messages at: