Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Power of "Runt"

     About this time last year, I was on a search for the perfect pit bull puppy (a statement you won’t read on many art blogs).  I waded through the many possibilities, but my requirements weren’t easily met:
 --- Female
 --- No undershot jaw and a good disposition
 --- A nice paint job, preferably brindle, blue paul, or mouse colored
 --- Smallest dog in the litter, i.e. “the runt”
 --- Not overpriced
     The first three categories were easy to meet and I knew if Category 4 could be obtained, then Category 5 would fall into place.  After several months, Pam and I stopped in Lockhart, Texas where a very nice older woman was selling a litter of pups.  Both parents were present and were well-socialized, well-mannered dogs.
     I immediately saw my pup in the whelping box, but negotiated from the top.  Two blue male picks of the litter at $1500 each.  Double WOW!  There were three black and white paints with blue muzzles at $850 each.  WOW!  Then there is a smaller female with a white snip at $250.  Better! One little chocolate brown runt acting very well mannered in the corner, all by herself.  PRICELESS! 
     The lady quotes me $150.  I say “I’ve never paid more than $50 for a bulldog pup.”  She agrees to meet at $100 – done!  I put the pup in Pam’s lap and off we go.
     Fast forward one year to today, one empty blog post, and here we are.  I worked on a painting for an upcoming show most of this week.  I struggled with paint application (second layer lifting), paper sizing issues, compositional problems, and an early drawing mistake that had to be repaired.  All of these problems were hardly leading me to a winner or “pick of the litter.”
     I initially thought about ditching this effort, but I had seen a Gordon Snidow painting with a similar dark background and felt I could still make this a special painting.  I pressed on, tackling each problem systematically, and hoping for a winner in the end.
     The reasons I’m fond of runt pups are diverse and wide-ranging.  They are tough by necessity, and survivors in nature.  They are appreciative of a good home, and fiercely loyal.  But you must see past the “runtness” to the possibilities.
     I needed to view my painting exactly the same… it was a runt.  My left-brain logic was screaming to call it dead, but my gut kept fighting back, saying, “Yes, this is a runt, but it will pay off in the end.”  My gut was right. 
"Yerba Mate"
     When your work in progress feels like the pick of the litter, it is easy to go forward.  But sticking with the runt is an uphill struggle.  Take it from me, “Master of the Runt Painting”---it will come back and gift you a thousand fold. 

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