Friday, April 8

Self-Actualization in the Studio

Untitled (Finished State) 2011 Stephan P. Ferreira
Recently I have stopped holding myself to results and starting admitting what doesn't work. I have tried to be patient and allow habitual accidents or tendencies to exist - or disappear. I am also trying to document the working pieces of my paintings - because they usually become swallowed up by something else. Those pieces end up existing for mostly my benefit and just adding to some sort of understanding later applied elsewhere.

So much of painting is more than results, it is the creating of a map of multiple understandings. I've realized I want the inaccuracies and mis-understandings to all exist in the result. I just haven't figured out how yet.

Unfinished (1st State) Detail 2011 Stephan P. Ferreira
This could be called some sort of search for creative-actualization. It's what painters, artists - people do. The unfinished painting here represents another search for ideas. It is always interesting to apply what you do, to something slightly different - the product tends to reveal your habits and strengths in stark contrast.

Unfinished (2nd State) Detail 2011 Stephan P. Ferreira
I'm deviating only slightly here and working from photographs found in books. This is not about finding different subject matter but instead trying to find ways of testing my process. If I work well from photographs, why? If I find that I don't actually shoot the reference material I want to use, can I find it elsewhere? Is it the photograph at all - or is a quality or feeling - perhaps invoked coincidentally by the photographs?

Some of the details here reveal that I enjoy working from a photograph because it "stills" things. It affords me controllable working time. I like beginning with some sort of clear point and then re-working it over and over. The photograph makes it's own decisions though and I wonder if instead of subject matter, I am trying to emulate something else from the photographs entirely - or not.

Unfinished (1st State) Detail 2011 Stephan P. Ferreira

Unfinished (1st State) Detail 2011 Stephan P. Ferreira
Ideally I might be working from life. Just as I am always drawing from life. And I find I am active and vivid in an entirely different way when I am observing from life. Although drawing does factor a great deal into my paintings (and the way I paint)- why are the two practices different? Am I trying to trick myself into using the photograph in order to make my process work?

Layering quick, gestural articulations of the same thing over and over reoccurs in most of my work. But when drawing from life, that act seems to exist as the image itself - whereas when I'm working from a photograph I loose sight of my intentions and something concrete eventually surfaces.

Photography really has altered the way I construct an image - and I have embraced it's language with bad habits and good. But what I am realizing now is that I have a tendency to cover what appears like mistakes, that are actually my marks - my thoughts. But by documenting and allowing everything to exist or be destroyed without consequence, I am slowly allowing the accumulation of myself in each painting.

(This post was originally published on 4/6/11 and has been changed. The original post discussed Carina Chocano's reflection on self-perfection in the NYT Magazine, pointing out: "Once we've reduced perfection to a kind of sharp-elbowed self-actualization, even impressive artistic and intellectual accomplishments...come to seem not admirable but hollow and desperate.")


  1. This painting looks great. Very nice color harmony on this piece. By the way, if you have or haven't known I have this painting blog, you might want to check it out if you have time. Thanks!