Saturday, November 21, 2009


At Utah State University I teach students in the Art Department how to paint. For many painting instructors, that might mean primarily a focus on theory and concept. I'm talking here about the kind of people who never miss an opportunity to use the word "reference" as a verb. But in the courses I teach, I do spend a considerable amount of time actually talking about the physical activity of painting. I don't think it hurts anyone to know how to mix color or to use a system based on local values to create order in an image. But even given my willingness to deal unashamedly with the mechanics of painting, I can't always shield my students from the esoteric stuff. And the fact that I keep coming back to, is that in painting, viscosity counts for a lot. And the truth about viscosity, is that it's virtually impossible to explain it verbally. If the paint has the right viscosity, it's easy to make it do what you want. If the viscosity is wrong, you can forget it. Recently I learned, it's the same when you're making Spätzle.

About this time a year ago, I was in Essen, enjoying an expat Thanksgiving dinner at Seitenblick. I ordered, ate and later wrote about a fabulous meal of Kurbisspätzle, or Pumpkin Spaetzle, pan fried with sauerkraut. We decided to try making it at home about a week ago, but we didn't get the Zähflüssigkeit right and our noodles turned into a kind of spätzlemässig brick. It was still good sliced and fried with the sauerkraut, but I think we'll cook a turkey this Thursday just the same.

The contrast between then and now is interesting in other ways too, and the blog allows me to go back and see more or less exactly what I was doing a year ago. Then, I had just gotten started on several paintings and managed to complete at least one of the larger oils. Now, I'm working intermittently in the studio and starting to think about preparations for the exhibition I'll be doing in January. A year ago, I was spending time with Thore, a one year old German native, trying to bring him up to speed on the American blues tradition. I don't really know what's happening with Thore now. He never calls, he doesn't write... If he's like many of his countrymen, I imagine he celebrated Tag der Deutschen Einheit recently and is trying his best to avoid the Schweinegrippe. When he's a little older, I'll ask him if he can help me out with some Spätzle tips. Until then, I'll just stick to painting and try to get the viscosity right.

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