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  • Kirsten Johnston

Good enough?

Updated: Jan 18

As you may know, I like to paint on paper. I like the way the ink reacts with the absorbent surface. I enjoy the permanency of the marks. I love the feel of the paper – a very heavy watercolour version that weighs in at about 640gsm. It’s almost the stiffness of cardboard and has a most luxurious quality. I use a great deal of water, at times. This allows for an enormous range of intensity of colour. The way the water reacts with the paper is integral to my current style.


There is a big down-side though. For most hanging situations and most sales, the work needs to be framed. Because I work in a fairly large format, the framing is expensive, making the finished piece significantly more costly for the purchaser and, after the seller’s commission is taken, the amount I feel I can claim is reduced, lest the works be priced out of the market.


I was talking to a creative coach the other day who, when I explained this dilemma, questioned why I don’t then paint on canvas. Although I have only used this surface in the past for previous styles of work and only with acrylic paint, I was reluctant to push aside her suggestion without at least thinking about it. I knew that there was a new product on the market that could be painted on canvas to give it an absorbency and, therefore, make it behave more like paper. I resolved to give it a decent try. It could solve a number of problems, after all.


The prepared canvas does not behave like paper, but rather in a strange middle ground between the two surfaces. It has led me to thinking about what becomes acceptable in order to cover as many bases as possible.


Are ‘close’ or ‘a vague approximation’ or ‘nearly’, good enough? Are these simply other words for ‘different and unfamiliar’ or are they genuinely describing a lesser quality or diminished experience? Is it possible to learn to embrace the variations to create a new solution that may be, over all, better than the original? Conversely, will it only ever be ‘as good’ or, worse, ‘adequate’? At what stage does ‘different’ become not even an shadow of the original vision? How long do we persevere before we return to what we know is most suited to us, gives the best result and allows us to do work that we are proud of?


I have two or three prepared canvasses left. I struggle to make the new regime work but will perhaps continue with the remaining materials to know that I have really tried. I don’t think I’m willing to compromise, though, and, quite apart from anything else, the canvas is not as much fun – at this early stage, anyway. I have a stack of paper waiting. I reckon within the week I’ll be back to it.


Until later,

Kirsten

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