I often think about how long my father took to make a painting. From an initial tiny pencil sketch, he might go to a 4”x4” watercolor. Then he would outline the elements of part of the painting. And all this would happen before he touched a brush to the paint he would use to make the final image. I suppose that is the process of many artists, but it makes me think about all the work that went into each piece of art before it got my father’s signature.
That said, until recently, I never really gave much thought to how much my father labored over the names he gave his paintings. In going through some of his handwritten notes one day, I discovered this gem, which reminded me of just how meticulous Jan was with regard to every aspect of his work. I recall him telling me that for each painting he was working on, he would make a list of words that he associated with aspects of the scene he was creating. He would categorize the words – in this case his categories were Music, Dance, and Theatre. Under each heading were all the words he thought might reasonably describe the painting. He would play with combinations, deleting some words, perhaps adding others, until he got just the right combination to convey the essence of that particular piece of work.
Somehow, knowing this makes me always focus a little more on the titles of my dad’s paintings – reminding me how important all aspects of his art were to him.