Days 1,2 and 3 of an Unnamed Painting / Edwin Dickinson

Days 1, 2, and 3 of an in-progress painting, which I really don’t want to name Shopping Mothers, or Escape Plan, or even LowCal Beverage, although I quite like the idea of that one. I think it’s funny the way the boys are intent on breaking free from their carts, while the mothers are engrossed in reading packaging. They each inhabit their own private spaces both with their gazes and their thoughts, except for the boy on the right, whose eyes and thoughts are entirely in the other boys’ space.

Looking at these images I find it odd the way that so much happened on the canvas on the first day, when I was in the studio for 6 hours, while days 2 and 3 seem to have made such minor progress, although I spent 5 and 3 hours on those days, respectively. Probably I feel exhausted by this image because I’ve been painting plastic for three straight sessions. But it doesn’t help that day two was election day, and day three was the day after we learned the results, so my spirits were not conducive to freedom. Edwin Dickinson said you can only produce a quality painting by functioning at the height of your enthusiasm, so perhaps I should have stayed home while I was in a funk. He told his students to paint as though they were jumping onto a moving train, and I love the energy I have to fill my chest with just to imagine making that leap; it puts me in a great place to work from. Maybe I should get an image of a moving train to put up in the studio. At any rate, this painting needs to be set aside for a week or so, until I’m inspired by it again.

It could also just be the repetitive plastic.

Edwin Dickinson

Edwin Dickinson was a Symbolical painter,


The Rival Beauties, 1915

who was among the early American painters of the premier coup (first strike) method.


View of Great Island, 1940

This was an intense session of spontaneous painting, born in Europe in the first half of the 19th century. It was an all-out attack on nature, which invited painters to test their skills en plein air (in open air). The method migrated to the US in the 1860s, but did not receive critical endorsement for decades, because critics considered the paintings too unfinished. The approach was incorporated into the curriculum of institutions like the Art Students League, where Dickinson learned the technique from William Merritt Chase.


Coast at Wellfleet with a Wreck, 1930


In America the premier coup also signified democracy and individuality, speed and intuition. It can be seen as the origin of gestural abstraction which then ushered in the era of Abstract Expressionism.



Jetty, Point Lookout, 1953

Dickinson earned a living as a painting teacher who earned the unbridled adoration of his students. One of his lessons which makes sense to me is what he called a ‘color-spot’. He focused on color masses in the visual material, and tried to break students from the habit of knowing beforehand what they were looking at. There was often a reference to unnameable color, or no-color color, which was an attempt to rid students of their conventional knowledge when looking at an object.


Cove, Wellfleet, 1946


Dickinson told his students to paint as if seeing an object for the first time. This resonates with me, as I often find that my drawings will be wrong when I am thinking too much, rather than recording faithfully the abstract shapes my eyes are taking in.


Nude with Pine Cones, Marie, 1939

Dickinson is definitely in my artist’s family tree. The feeling of my premier coups are not very similar to his in stye, but I feel like my figures are not very dissimilar. That’s a fun discovery from an artist I just got turned on to!

If you’d like to read more about Edwin Dickinson, here are a couple good links: