When I Get Stuck (part 1)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

When I Get Stuck 1

When I get stuck or feel lost in a painting (like when I snapped this photo), I tell myself that the painting is just for me, that I never have to show it to anyone else. I tell myself this again and again–a salve for that nervous, self-conscious part of me that’s hovering over my right shoulder, whispering encouraging things like, “Abandon all hope” and, “The dumpster is only a short walk up the street; no one will see you if you go under the cover of darkness to discard this abomination.”

Also, friends help. Friends have happened by just in time to save paintings I’d placed on the curb. They hang these paintings in their homes, and tell their visitors that I’m the artist who made them. I don’t like this. Friends have stopped in when I’m so frustrated that I’m threatening the garbage. “Don’t give up!” they say. “It’s got potential. Stay with it. Or give it a rest and come back to it. But please don’t throw it away.”

What I do then is a sort of mental dump. I imagine myself throwing the painting away, and then I give myself permission to be as wild and raw with the remaining surface as I want to be. I decide it’s no longer precious; there’s nothing to preserve. I wail. And usually, those are the ones I wind up loving the most. So there’s that.

Because of this, I do try to finish every painting I start, try to wrestle my way to the end and live with the consequences of what’s emerged. Almost always, telling myself that a piece is just for me frees me up to paint more fearlessly, which in and of itself is a kind of triumph. And often, by the time I’m done, I may not have made my all-time favorite piece, but I’ve succeeded in giving myself to it fully. Then, I can’t help but love the painting for what we’ve been through together, and for where we’ve come out just by coming through.


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