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2000-Nov-13: From the New York City interviews

Sir Paul granted a few interviews during his brief exhibit at the Matthew Marks Gallery last week in New York City. After signing 600 of his prints in a single day, he was feeling a bit overhelmed:

"I always agree and suddenly find myself in the middle of it. 'Silly boy, you should have spread it out more.' I'll be off this evening. I'll be OK. It's just a hard day's day."

Did Sir Paul ease into his life as a painter?

"I think it was an explosion. Once I got free of my own stupidity, it was just like a volcano erupting. It was the remark Bill de Kooning made that seemed to indicate he had such a free take on painting. I had gotten the mistaken idea that unless I got the exact subject and the exact thought behind it, I shouldn't start. Bill's idea was quite the opposite. He would often start by writing the name of one of his friends on a canvas and painting over it and starting from there. That became more interesting to me than becoming broody. Everything I'd ever wanted to try came out.

"I think people worry about content. Somebody will wait until they have the exactly right idea. I have friends who are like that. It was getting in the way for me, the idea that if I haven't got a deep and meaningful idea, I can't start. Bill said, 'Why don't you just start?' He didn't become so much a mentor to me as it was his attitude and one little chance remark that inspired me."

What prompts him to start painting then?

" I need to just have an urge to paint. I say, 'I'd love to paint a picture and I've got time.' Often it's just having a bit of time to do it. It's such a nice relief from the pressure of touring. On the world tours I did in the '90s, I painted quite a lot. I surprised people by not taking my days off. In my mind, I was taking the day off. I was painting.

"If I'm lucky, I go through a door into the painting. I lose myself in the painting. I like that. My thing is about following the accidental, more than trying to paint an accurate bowl of apples. I enjoy most following the paint. It leads me somewhere else. I think I enjoy just letting the magic unfold and letting the spirit of the paint tell me where we're going. It's similar to music. You get a couple or words or notes or chords that excite you and you just follow them and add a bit more and see where it takes you. That's the thrill for me. It still is a thrill, which is amazing after all this time.

" People who paint, including myself, get to a point where a bit of angst comes in. If you're doing it for a living, it's worth it to suffer those slings and arrows. If I was going to paint for my own fun, that was one thing I had to avoid. I invented these characters. One of them is Luigi. If I get to a point in a painting where I'm getting stuck, I imagine Luigi has a restaurant with a little alcove. He's a good friend of mine. He's always saying, 'Paint a picture for the alcove.' When things get tough, I say, 'This is for Luigi. He'll like this.' I don't fret it. Lo and behold, five minutes later, I'm at a new point in the painting and I got through the bad patch. Or, if I'm getting a bit stuck, I become Mr. Blendini. He enjoys blending colors. He can spend hours doing that. I've got Luigi and Blendini. Everyone needs friends like that. Luigi accepts everything I do. He loves it."

(kindly submitted by PLUGGED correspondent Joan M. Hopkins)


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