impossible couch

seeing watercolors started me down the road of painting from memory — if i could see a sky as watercolors, i could see how to paint it, and could remember that. i started to paint anything that struck me with the force of a paintable image.

these moments were very recognizable and completely unpredictable, like the first glimpse of love. i started thinking of these as gift images.

i felt an arousal and intense attention, a rush caused by the image — not just from the visual stimulation, but because of a sense of kinship with the spirit of the thing ... and a delicious sense of how fun it would be to paint it.

the feeling itself was odd: as if the paintable image were floating in the real world, had a life of its own, reached out or unveiled itself in an intentional way. i felt spoken to or bumped by something tangible.

so an image like impossible couch would unexpectedly seize me, and i would paint it as soon as i could find the time, often late at night.

this lapse between the seeing and the doing stimulated my ability to paint from memory. at first i found it harder to remember the image than to draw it on the spot (as if remembering were a more difficult kind of drawing). so i tried to find ways to aid memory.

sketching and painting it in my imagination was one way. visualizing the choice and mixture of paints was another. i described the image to myself in words, i made small sketches on receipts, business cards, scraps of paper.

hardest to remember were the unique shape and accidental details of the objects, which in memory slipped into blurry stereotypes or caricatures. colors and textures were easier to remember, because they could be named, or marked with paints; the value structure could be reconstructed from the lighting.

i sometimes went back to the image place and looked at what was there after i had painted it. that impossible couch was still there, much longer and with three cushions, not two; the zebra pattern was completely different.

i bought some sketchbooks, but did not consistently carry them with me. it didn't seem to matter: accurate seeing, memory, imagination and painting skill continued to fuse through the effort to use them in combination.

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