I’m an absolutist soul in a pragmatist’s body. On the one hand, I always want to prepare and make everything as perfect as it possibly can be. In this spirit, everything must be completely right or it won’t do. Indeed, not even my best is good enough, and I’m forever rubbing clean and re-painting pieces until I’m absolutely happy and exhausted even if no one else would have seen what I had seen to make me discontented.
On the other hand, part of me thinks accuracy is vastly over-rated – that (on the whole) glass painting isn’t like manufacturing a mechanical clock: so, for many images, their constituent strokes can in some sense be in “the wrong place” yet what emerges from the whole, with light shining through it, is … beautiful. No other word will do.
And in that spirit I think one can be damned by accuracy.
Just so – I’m a huge admirer of John Singer Sargent, and whenever I’m in Edinburgh, I go straight to the National Gallery and pay my to “Lady Agnew of Lochnaw”.
And yet, see here …
Just look at Lady Agnew here and read what Sargent wrote:
Yes: “Every time I paint a portrait, I lose a friend”. You see my point: accuracy but no friends – damned by accuracy.
All the same, you can’t abandon it – not unless you have the titanic, world-transforming technique of Salvador Dali who could do pretty much as he pleased:
Right: “Rather does the person grow to look like his portrait” – I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemies. (Maybe more to the point: I wouldn’t be able to earn a living …)
For me, and maybe you feel this also, glass painting is rather like an anxious dance, sometimes holding accuracy close, sometimes leaving it at quite a distance.
Which brings me to Francis Bacon, so many of whose paintings shock me so much, I won’t put anything here except some words of his:
“ … one knows that by some accidental brush-marks, suddenly appearance comes in with a vividness that no accepted way of doing it would have brought about”
And if I had to make a choice, I’d say – with glass painting – it’s that vividness (your viewer gasps and is enchanted) which really counts.
Therefore, I drink a toast to those “accidental brush-marks”.
All the same, because of the fast-drying nature of the medium, no one gets that without – technique. Thus, the particular brush-marks themselves may be in some sense accidental … but there is nothing accidental at all about the skill with which the brush and paint themselves are used.