The Museum of Modern GIFs (The Park Painters, Part 3)

Ahoy! Please come in—welcome to The Pattern Workshop, a newsletter about creativity. I’m Kevin McGillivray, and this is part three of a mini-series of posts about my outdoor oil painting season this summer. Today I’m inside the studio, taking a break from the heat, and pondering experiments…

I wish museums were filled with GIFs. I want to see the final painting next to a montage of images of it being made. The painting at twenty minutes, then two hours, then six hours. The painting in its final state is beautiful, whole, and complete—but the attempts to find the truth in it are often more interesting.


At the end of every painting session, I take a photo of the in-progress painting, like canvas version control. When these pictures are connected, it looks like a video—like a camera lens coming into focus and subtly shifting around the subject. The painting isn’t static—it’s dynamic, it has a lifetime and a changing form like all living things.


Looking at these sequences, I notice wholeness. Painting from life is like slowing down the first moment you open your eyes and stretching it out over hours. I don’t perceive one leaf at a time, I see the entire field of vision as a whole. Then details and parts become differentiated with extended attention and time.

I think it’s important to paint (or to make anything) the way our senses make sense of the world. If we want what we make to have a degree of life, or the Quality Without a Name, I think it’s helpful to start with wholeness, maintain wholeness, and develop the whole together. I can’t start a landscape with one blade of grass or leaf at continue from there—it starts with the whole and it continues growing as a whole until it’s on the wall in a frame.

Self portrait

Speaking of walls and frames… I’ve gotten some questions about how it might be possible to buy paintings. I’d really like to find a way to do this! If you’re interested in a painting or two, would you please enter your email over on this page (or reply to this newsletter)?

I know, another newsletter signup! But it’s a way for me to keep track of folks who are interested so I don’t fill the main newsletter with too many updates. I’d like to experiment—there may be a traditional page with paintings listed for sale, or maybe something that looks like an “art CSA” box, or maybe one of those mysterious NFTs everyone is talking about. We’ll see! The paintings are piling up and in need of good homes.

More words soon,


Kevin McGillivray

Kevin McGillivray is a web developer, painter, and writer in Wisconsin. He writes about creativity, online and offline neighborhoods, and vegetables. He paints and dives.

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