February 28th, 2021
When I finish a painting, it always surprises me how little is left behind of the effort. (minus the actual painting) A few palette scrapping and maybe a dirty brush I was too lazy to clean. Weeks of work, down to virtually nothing. Craft anything else, and that will not be the case. Furniture, sculpture, food …a house. Most creative efforts leave behind a tremendous amount of waste. In fact most efforts in life leave behind waste. Then, Warren Teitelman changed everything.
I first used CMD Z in Photoshop, in 1989. Yes, PS has been around that long, if not longer. However, I got a real sense of the power of CMD Z, later at music school. A friend across the hall had a Kurzweil K250 hooked up to a MAC SE. Suddenly, note changes didn’t require wearing an eraser down to the nub and then re programming new notes back into the sequencer. I could just undo a note on the stave and it would re propagate the sequence. This was a game changer for the film and TV world. It was a game changer for me. In fact, my entire adult life has had the UNDO function at my finger tips. Warren Teitelman invented CMD Z. That’s who.
There Was Something.
In many ways, Oil paint was like the first undo for artists. Oil is forgiving and long lasting. It allows for the artist to manipulate and re think in real time. However, unlike a digital paint program, the oil leaves traces behind. It never completely erases the past effort. Thats what I love about it. I use this fact about oil paint when creating those rich patinas, seen in the Broken Bank Note series. Constantly, doing and undoing and doing again, paint layers to build upon those traces of past efforts. I like that the past is never truly gone. That plays to my emotional and psychological self, as well as my artistic desires.
It does seem that the notion that one can just “undo” something permeates every aspect of our life. Can you think a modern time, where CMD/CTRL Z didn’t save you? How many things in your personal life do you think you can just “undo”? Maybe this technology gives us un realistic ideas about the ability to just undo something with little or no effort. We think we can undo everything and leave no trace behind. I have learned both in my art and in my life that is virtually impossible. Nor would I want it any other way.
Recently, I have had to undo things, both professionally and personally. Plans, ideas and other wants. I am sure you have been there too. Undoing those efforts will leave traces no matter how hard I try. If you have not played with oil paint, fear not. It’s more forgiving than real life and can reward you with a rich visual documentation, past efforts and all. It helps with the acceptance of the not so clean undo and the idea that everything leaves traces behind. Building on those traces has made my work what it is. Maybe it's also made me who I am.