I paint not the things I see but the feelings they arouse in me.
People sometimes think I take a white canvas and paint a black sign on it, but this is not true. I paint the white as well as the black, and the white is just as important.
If I feel a painting I’m working on doesn’t have imagery or emotion, I paint it out and work over it, until it does.
The final test of a painting, theirs, mine, any other, is: does the painter’s emotions come across?
My old landscapes of Pennsylvania are worth so much now that I have to hide them, so I don’t get put in a even higher tax bracket. For years nobody would pay a dime for them. They’re still the same paintings. They didn’t get any better. I treasure them as much as my recent black and white abstracts.
Paint never seems to behave the same. Even the same paint doesn’t, you know. In other words, if you use the same white or black or red, through the use of it, it never seems to be the same. It doesn’t dry the same. It doesn’t stay there and look at you the same way.
There are moments or periods when it would be wonderful to plan something and do it and have the thing only do what you planned to do, and then, there are other times when the destruction of those planned things becomes interesting to you. So then, it becomes a question of destroying – of destroying the planned forms; it’s like an escape, it’s something to do, something to begin the situation. You yourself, you don’t decide, but if you want to paint, you have to find out some way to start this thing off, whether it is painting it out or putting it in.
Some of the pictures I work on a long time and they look as if I’ve knocked them out, you know, and there are other pictures that come off right away. The immediacy can be accomplished in a picture that’s been worked on for a long time just as well as if it’s been done rapidly, you see. But I don’t find that any of these things prove anything really.
Painting Number 2, 1954, The Museum of Modern Art
Licensed under fair use via Wikipedia
“Installation shot at Haunch of Venison showing works, from left, by Franz Kline, David Smith and Robert Motherwell”