Monday, June 14, 2010


I had a student ask me if I ever get frustrated while I'm painting.
"Heh heh, who me?"
I told them yes and I am sure we all do, it's just that I have learned to approach it differently now than when I started. I have learned that if you can see through it, calm down long enough, there is usually a very significant lesson to be learned.
I remember an incident for me about three to four years ago as I was standing in the middle of a vast cornfield trying to paint. It was mid day, sun was bright and it was getting hot, but the biggest issue I had that day, the one that REALLY sent me over the top, was this slimy, slippery quality to my paint application. Wouldn't adhere to the canvas, just slid. I lost it.
Now, I could have picked up my Open M Box and thrown it like a javelin. Or probably gotten pretty good distance with a "shot put" technique but I went with the tried and true "hammer throw" namely because I was clear headed enough at that point to realize the chemicals I had assembled on my palette would spin off harmlessly in an arc away from me. It was pretty good distance too for someone in hunting boots and blue jeans. Had I had on those little tight athletic clothes and shoes they wear there's no telling how far I could have pitched it. Point is, after I calmed down and had that moment of clarity, I saw myself standing pathetically in this vast cornfield on this vast planet and realized how small this all was so I went over, dusted it all off, stood it up and really thought about why I got frustrated. Analyzed it. Really tried to get to the bottom of it. I was using Liquin as a medium at the time so I thought I could try the next painting without it. Maybe that was it. Bingo, it got a little better. Lesson.
So now when I get frustrated I see it as a lesson. There is something there that is causing the frustration and if I keep my wits I might be able to analyze this and figure it out. Another lesson.
They say pain is the body's way of telling you something is wrong. I feel that way about frustration when I paint. I need to analyze what I am doing and try to fix what is causing the "pain". Sometimes it works and others it doesn't but it is much better than flinging an Open M Box across a cornfield.


Claire Beadon Carnell said...

Your post here really resonated with me, Kevin. I worked as a computer programmer for many years, and after a while I came to learn that when I was at my most frustrated trying to debug a program, I was right on the brink of a resolution. Taking this knowledge into my artwork, I have learned to welcome frustration because it signals a need for adjustment. Hanging in there and figuring out what is causing the tension allows you to learn something new.
(I have never thrown a painting, but in my early years of painting I was so frustrated with my work that I smacked it with my brush...not a good move because it rendered a huge split right through the center! However, once I calmed myself down, I was able to start the painting over with a whole new perspective, and was actually much happier with the second piece.)
Your work is so incredible - I often forward your posts on to my students.

Kevin Menck said...

I have always liked a woman that will give a canvas a good solid shot with a brush. Keep paintin'.

Mitch Mann (615) 289-6727 said...

So ... I guess the Open Box M survived. Hmmm ... might have to get one of those if they're that sturdy! My EASyL-Pro is sturdy too. Don't think I'll put it to the test though:))))

Kevin Menck said...

Let's take it to a corn field some time and see what she'll do.

Chris Ousley said...

Good work as usual. The troughs look "nice and used".

Lisa said...

I love the way the different temperatures break across the side of the hay bale. I also like how the tin roof looks searing hot, which I'm sure it was! And finally, I like how such simple lines create the illusion of rugged detail in the troughs.

Doug said...

next time just sail that bad painting into the woods like a Frisbee, and keep the box. Then you won't have to go tromping into the woods looking for it. A little tip from the master Frisbee/painting tosser. : )

Oh... if you want to get rid of the foreign spam (the two previous comments), just click on that little trash can at the bottom of the comment you want to trash.

Kevin Menck said...

Doug- Love the chicken icon.

Anonymous said...

I always tell my kids that if you screwed up, o.k. If you are having issues with something, o.k. O.k. as long as you learn something from it. Love you story about getting frustrated. I have painting frustration daily! Love your art.