Painting: Stillness (for Ashlyn, for John Nathan)


Me and this painting went through a lot together.

By “a lot,” I basically just mean that the process of making this painting had its share of difficult moments.

I must to confess there was a specific moment when I stood up from this painting, walked over to friend of mine, and told them (and I quote) “if I ever agree to do a painting like this again, please slap me in the face.”

(dramatic much? Well….yes.)

Once I got over my momentary frustration, I certainly didn’t feel the same way. I actually came to love and enjoy this project, and am proud of how it turned out. But what made  the process of this painting so hard?


The moment that I was so frustrated with this painting was when I was trying to sketch the figures of John Nathan and his dogs onto the background I had already painted. I found that if I drew one of the lines at a slightly wrong angle, the whole figure I was sketching looked like a completely different person or dog. Every minuscule curve and shape had to be exactly right, or it didn’t look like John Nathan at all. Every little angle and line completely altered the whole painting.


I think it’s true to say that every form of art hinges on detail.

For example, imagine a folk band composed of four excellent instrumentalists. Every musician could be totally on beat and playing exactly what they’re supposed to play, yet, if one guitarist’s b-string was out of tune, the whole thing would sound slightly “off ” at best, and completely discordant at worst. The tension of one thin string on one instrument has the ability to determine if the music will sound great or terrible.

One small detail.

The same goes with visual art. It is the tiny, minuscule, no-one-will-ever-notice details that can make or break a painting. Maybe the grass just isn’t the right shade of green; this doesn’t just affect the grass, this subtracts from the painting as a whole.

Thus, detail is one of the greatest tools in the hand of an artist. In some cases, it is also one of the greatest frustrations an artist faces, but this is only true because detail is so vitally important. All the detail carefully added (or neglected) makes up the whole of the work.

So, if you’re an artist, I encourage you, don’t neglect the small details; they can make or break your painting.

And if you aren’t an artist? Well, I assume that if you’re reading this, you are a human being, and the same principles apply to our very lives. It’s the minor habits, the shifts in attitude, the ways we interact with the people we see the most; these things make us who we are. The mundane and the everyday make up the prevailing pattern of our lives.

So don’t neglect detail. It’s often the small and seemingly unimportant things that have the most impact in the end.

**End Note: I have come to love this project, and am so so thankful to Ashlyn for asking me to do it!!! You’re the best!!!



One thought on “Detail

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