|This got a beautiful coat of white gesso!|
Painting is a series of plateaus that you hit. You get to one point and it feels effortless for a little bit. You might even do some pieces that feel like they painted themselves and just came through you. Then...you struggle...and it's hard 'cause you thought it you'd reached a point and it was going to be effortless from now on! It's scary and you might even feel a little like you got tricked into thinking you were a good painter and you're really not. The secret is finally out!
Well, like I told Jacob, I have made friends with these "plateaus". Like it or not, I now understand they are a necessary part of being a painter that is growing and progressing. If you want to grow, evolve, improve as a painter, you have to challenge yourself to do things differently. This can mean so many things from something simple like just trying a new brand of paper or changing up your work completely, (don't try this unless you're kinda crazy like me). If you always paint the same thing, in the same way, of course it will stay the same and likely be pretty good. I've noticed artists that paint exactly the same as they did 15 or 20 years ago. For some that may be satisfying, but it's not my thing, so I have to push myself forward and that leads to a series of plateaus.
Right now I'm scrambling up the rough patch before I reach the next one. It's hard, it's not very fun. It's tiring, both mentally and physically. Some days are unproductive and frustrating; painting over paintings, throwing things away or even just standing there staring at blank canvas. It feels like a waste of time and money. Sometimes unsavory, niggling thoughts creep in like,"oh maybe I shouldn't be painting these figures. I should just stick with the landscapes" or even "maybe I should look for a "real" job."
Even though I still have these thoughts sneak in, I can laugh them off more quickly and put them in their place because I know the next plateau is right up there. I'm very certain of it. When I reach it, it will be blissful to stand atop it and look back down at where I came from. I'll enjoy my time on it and linger there for a while, before I turn and start up the next hill. I'll hope the next one isn't too rocky or tricky, but a smooth, gradual slope! Ha, ha!!
Some other thoughts about paintings
Some paintings are meant for my flat files, as in "not ready to throw away, but I don't want to look at you."
Some paintings are meant for my walls,(something in there I want to look at, but not ready for prime time)
Some paintings just have to go into the round file as in,"I can't make it through the day looking at you for one more second!"
Some paintings go in frames and get sold.
All paintings are good.
Some more thoughts about the ugly paintings
No painting starts out beautiful or finished. They all go through an "ugly" stage. Your job is to find the kernel in there that you can build around to bring it to "finish"
The ugly ones are necessary too. They are good.
Some paintings are a little needy. They need more attention than others.
If you figure on a 50% success rate, that's pretty good if you paint 100 paintings, not so satisfying if you paint two. Better paint a hundred just in case!
Thoughts about thoughts
They are overrated. Just paint. Don't over-think it. My husband always tells me in his very gentle way, "Marla, just paint". Best advice, I've ever gotten. Don't take too much responsibility for the good paintings or the bad ones. You can get too big a head, then be pretty bummed when the bad ones hit! They just are what they are. One of the most wonderful things about painting is that you have to be present and in the moment. You can't be thinking about the laundry or your taxes or what to make for dinner. You have to be looking, responding, creating. Don't start thinking about it too much after the fact and second guessing your skills, the market, etc. etc. Just paint. It's a path that has never led me astray.