Hidden Bottles | Behind the Canvas with Jim Klein

Art and love are the same thing: It’s the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you.”

Chuck Klosterman

Sometimes it takes another set of eyes to see what we cannot in the moment.

This exact scenario happened during the creation of one of Jim Klein’s abstract paintings titled Ten Bottles.

How did Ten Bottles come to be?

Jim: This was one painting that didn’t happen overnight.

In fact, I had mixed and painted the blue background wash onto the canvas… then it sat for months. Unfinished, Ten Bottles stood almost all winter inside the Art Factory. I would glance at the canvas every so often, but I had a hard time with how to continue past the wash.

What about the wash made it hard for you to continue the painting?

Jim: It’s unique in that the color will seem to change throughout the day; this particular wash really captures light well, shifting from aquamarine to teal to blue.

There’s some hesitation to progressing when you create a background wash you are happy with but know intrinsically the painting isn’t finished yet. I’ve talked a little about this in previous blogs. Once you commit to adding more paint, you have to commit. There’s no real “undo” button in a traditional medium like acrylic paint.

What happened when you decided to revisit the incomplete Ten Bottles?

Jim: It was late in the afternoon one day in Scottsdale. The sun was streaming through the windows in the Art Factory, hitting the blue wash on the canvas. I decided it was a good day to take the painting out.

I walked out of the Art Factory and onto the sidewalk with Ten Bottles. As longtime readers recall, I frequently paint outside to enjoy the foot traffic and get passersby’s opinion of whatever I am working on at the time.

Right next door is a bar and grill with outdoor seating on their patio. That day quite a few patrons were out enjoying the sunshine and drinks. I noticed a table with three couples around my age having a great time. After a friendly greeting, I brought the canvas over to them and held it up. I explained to the pairs of couples how I was currently stuck at this stage and asked them, “What do you see?”  

After a few suggestions from the various patrons, one of the men piped up that he saw a bottle. Something clicked when I looked back at the canvas, so I thanked the folks for their time and left them to their patio fun.

Back at the Art Factory, I set up an easel, grabbed my paints and started seeing bottles hidden in the wash. My brush found the outline of each one I discovered before they could disappear in the blue background.

When I felt Ten Bottles was finally complete and dried, I walked back over to the patio couples to show them what had come of their assistance and I thanked them for their creative help. They loved how the painting turned out and even came back to visit the Art Factory.

It can be very helpful to reach out when you’re feeling stuck. I’m glad I did.

Ten Bottles is available on the Online Gallery! Click here to view.

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