I’m both a word guy and a painter. Both require imagination, yet painting requires no words. In fact it’s better if there aren’t any. They just get in the way. Painting’s vocabulary may come from the same place as words, but they aren’t necessary. I don’t think in words when I’m painting, only in color, images, the application of the paint, using my tools, brushes, and moving. Moving is very important, big movements, small movements joining together in a dance of sorts. Reacting to what is happening on the canvas is important. That red may lead me somewhere. Where?
I’m a writer too. I wrote a play called “Even if the Mountains Burn.” I had so much time to tell so many stories. I had to choose my words carefully. They arrived and then they were rendered. Chosen after a board meeting of the intellect. Its takes a lot longer to choose a word than it does a color, a brush stroke. And the movements are small. Pushing the keys, moving the delete button. I can cover a whole huge painting in the time it takes to write what I just did. Time is different. The computer is clinical. About the only thing the same is you start off with a white page, a white canvas. Blankness starring at you. I wouldn’t call writing a sensual activity. Painting is however a sensual act. Moving the thick buttery paint around. Spreading it. Thick, oozing, it becomes bodily fluids. You decide.
I started the movie with words, a play really, very few of the scenes really had any visuals that were as concrete as the writing. It was a movie without equal visuals to go along the words. Its what I knew at the time. I’d already written my scenes for the soldier character because I’d told the story already as a play. Words were the medium then. I dragged them along, not that they weren’t important, but it was like a person with only one arm.
See it goes back to what I said in the beginning. Painters don’t need words, we don’t use them, they get in the way. So really I had no idea what my character the painter was thinking, because to be honest I’d never thought about it. For a guy who talks a lot and is expressive verbally, the irony is I’d spent almost my entire life working alone speaking to no one. Just simply working. But John always said the movie was about the painter, the soldier stories informed the artist, and the art.
The thing is, I wasn’t painting at all when we first started making the film way back in August. I thought I’d just put it off until the movie was done. Then we had these painting scenes and that’s when everything shifted. I had to paint the last big painting for the movie. I started painting, little paintings before John came in to set up equipment, then larger ones. Some were great, we put them in the film, I had to look at my paintings again. I’d forgotten them. Sorry.
But now that the character of the painter was let loose, ironically I wanted to let go of the words, the last of the stories. All I wanted was to paint on the floor and move and let John film the whole thing. Painting forever, the cameras rolling. Infinity. We’d get to the end of it someday. Painting does that to me. Now I’m explaining it. Better not. Those scenes will have to stand on their own. We’ve got the end of the movie to shoot. I’ll have to find my way to the words again. I wrote them, maybe it won’t be so hard.
Anyway, John will be there yelling, “Action!” and I’ll be bound to them.