January 31, 2013
When I got back from my Dominican Republic trip on December 12, it took me about a week to catch up on stuff—“stuff” meaning work that wasn’t drawing or painting. Then I was finally free to begin creating art again.
I’d been thinking about painting most of the time I was in the D.R., wishing I could do some. I was very impatient to get back into my studio and start splashing paint onto canvas.
I was so excited to start a painting…
…right up until the moment when it was time to actually GO INTO THE STUDIO AND START A PAINTING!
Then I found all these things I absolutely had to do first. Like making sure my art database was up to date. Rotating the art on my website. Looking at pix of naked guys online. Checking Facebook.
Anything but actually painting!
I always forget about this when I’m away and can’t paint. When I can’t, then I really want to do it. But when I CAN, I find all kinds of things to do instead.
I guess this is human nature, and painters are no exception. It’s always easier to do the less risky stuff.
Finally, though, you just get to the point where you know you have no choice. You have to paint. Doesn’t even matter what you paint. But you have to get started.
So that’s what I did. I began with some landscapes. Safe stuff. And I actually didn’t do too badly. Here’s one of the acrylic sketches I did of the beach in Las Terrenas.
I followed that with a nice little painting of the road to Las Terrenas.
Then I did a larger painting that was more of a commitment. “Sunset in Las Terrenas” was kind of a safe, conservative painting both in terms of style and subject matter, but it turned out well, and I felt like I was starting to get somewhere.
So I decided to do a figure, and I chose a photograph of Manuel with a towel to work from. I had high hopes for this one—I drew it right on the canvas and the drawing had lots of good energy. Then I started painting and—it all went to hell. On the face of it it’s not that bad…I could have finished it and it would have been perfectly okay. But I was not aiming for “okay.” There was no energy, no excitement. For me, working on a painting under those conditions is a kind of torture. So I painted it out.
I was having trouble because I wasn’t clear what I was aiming for, I just knew it needed to be something exciting and daring. Hard to get somewhere when you don’t know where it is. I just knew where it WASN’T.
The problem—if you want to call it that—is that I spend a lot of time looking at art by other artists. (If you’re interested, you can see some of the art I find inspiring by checking out my boards on Pinterest, especially Art I Like, Abstracts and Bold Brushwork.) I see things that excite me and move me deeply, and I want that kind of energy, emotion and excitement in my work. And that’s great, because it gives me creative energy. But it’s not so great in that it doesn’t give me any direction. Or I should say it gives me TOO MANY directions. There are so many things I want to try, but when you get into the studio, you kind of have to just CHOOSE SOMETHING and begin. You do need to have some idea of what you want to do.
Except sometimes you don’t.
I was so full of energy and so unsure of what I wanted to do with it, I decided to just put up a blank canvas and start throwing paint at it. My goal was not to create a painting, but just to PAINT. I figured this was a good way to tackle the paralysis that was threatening to keep me from painting at all.
And it worked!
Here are some of the results (I didn’t save any of these, but I did take pictures to keep track of my progress).
I thought the first one pretty much sucked, but reminded myself it didn’t matter. The point was not to make a great painting, but just to paint. So I did another one. And interesting things started to happen.
Just the act of mixing paint and then using my sponges to make big, bold strokes on the canvas was liberating and energizing. What was happening was, I was starting to get my confidence back. I did this sort of thing for a couple of days and I started to feel limbered up, so I decided to try another figure painting. Again, I chose a photograph of my newest model, Manuel.
This one went pretty well. The loosening-up process had really done what I needed it to do. It also helped that I painted this one pretty much entirely with sponges, which is a good way to keep myself from getting too careful. It also forces me to work large, which is good for me.
This one was kind of fun, although I felt I was still playing it a bit too safe. Doesn’t matter; it turned out well and I like it. At this point I just needed some successes to get my confidence back.
I followed this with some more abstract exercises. Again, I didn’t save these; they were exercises to get me in shape for the next painting.
And the next painting was another one of Manuel. This was a smaller work, nothing too earth-shattering, but a nice piece, solid, fairly loose, and I felt good about it. More confidence building, more of the day-to-day studio work you have to do to get good enough that you’re prepared when lightning does strike.
When I finished Rainy Morning Study, I went right back to my ‘exercises.’ And something happened that surprised me. One of my exercises turned into a real, solid abstract painting that I liked a lot. So I kept it! It’s called “Good Company.”
Excited about the abstract I’d just done, I decided to try another one. This one, too, worked out. Although it wasn’t as spontaneous as Good Company, I like the energy of it. It’s called “Inside Job.” (Both those titles just popped into my head when I finished the paintings, thank goodness. Sometimes it’s a real challenge to come up with painting titles.)
So after 3 weeks of warming up I feel like the creative juices are starting to flow again. I like the fact that I never know what will happen next, and while I’m not sure where this abstract stream in my work will go, I’m enjoying it, and I do know that it doesn’t matter that much WHAT I’m painting, as long as I AM painting.