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  • Writer's pictureHaydn Dickenson


Each time I paint, I am conscious of how the act, the process, the sensations and the outcome are never the same. Recently I have been starting to paint in the late afternoon, going into the evening; today I went into the studio in the early morning and the energy was different, and disturbingly so. I was diffident, cautious and shy in my gestures where, the previous three evenings, my mark making had been confident and authoritative; strange perhaps as, in general, I tend to be a 'morning-person'.

I began to reflect on the stages through which I travel on the journey that takes place with the canvas as its highway.

The author Lailah Gifty Akita has written: “Life is in different stages. Every stage of life is the foundation for the next stage of life. Every stage of life must be fully lived.” The same is true of a painting.

I always love the first marks that I make on a canvas. I long to keep them. Since I was a child I have been drawn to the glorious unfinished work left to us by Cézanne - still lifes and Provence-scented landscapes which murmur their fresh fragrance to the viewer as if the artist had just left the room. I often feel this way about the earliest phases of my own paintings, when shapes have been roughly indicated in thin sepia or burnt sienna paint, or in graphite lines, unburdened by subsequent marks which have the potential to emerge as over-thought or pre-meditated.


I crave to leave the painting thus, enjoying its elements of Zen-like immediacy, but I am conscious that its minimalism is just a little too minimal. I am aware that, instead of piercing clarity and unfettered spontaneity, there is merely a lack of substance; and so, like Hesse's Goldmund, I walk the next leg of the picaresque journey that each painting presents, ready for what may be thrown at me.


It struck me me this morning, while working further on the current piece, that there are crucial phases in the creation of a picture that are never meant to be seen. Obviously, no mark made on a canvas is ever made in vain and every layer or stratum of paint has a significance. I realised today though, that it is more than that - that it doesn't matter if some intermediary sub-layer is ugly or clumsy, for it is meant to be hidden; perhaps it will contribute to the upper, communicative strata even more, because it is so crude and unformed. Sometimes paintings take weeks, months or even years to complete.

For that reason, no one will ever see the marks that I made this morning, though the painting may bear silent witness to them one day!

Copyright Haydn Dickenson 2023

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10 de mai. de 2023

This made me smile. I really like this. It is possible, if we are in the right frame of mind, to enjoy each stage of a process or journey, even if it is incomplete. A parallel that comes to mind is in the biblical creation story, which of course can also be seen as a grand metaphor for the stages of a spiritually developing individual, or even that of humanity as a whole, in which not just the final product, but each stage, each 'day' of creation, is declared 'good'.

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