I notice every painting starts with fear for me. My inner critic is pretty harsh when it comes to painting. I envision her looking like Otto Dix’s portrait of journalist Sylvia von Harden blowing cigarette smoke at me as she tells me my work is shit. Strangely, I don’t feel this way when I work on sculpture. Every sculpture starts with excitement, my inner critic for it is more like a feisty Louise Bourgeois prodding me to work and see what happens. The joy is in the doing whether the piece is successful or not. A shitty painting however is a thing of shame that haunts me forever.
I haven't painted for a week or so since my son came to visit for Christmas and I let him camp out in my studio. Our house is small and he needed the space. I continued my year long endeavor of knitting him a pair of socks and binged Outlander. I can't tell you how many socks I've frogged on this journey, mostly too big as I knit in a modified continental style. This reminded me of all the ceramic pieces waiting for their crocheted edging. They take a very specific kind of focus and patience. I'm vowing to work on these in the evenings going forward. But back to the painting.
I carry quite a bit of dread with me as I get ready to work on my latest paintings. It started with one that I couldn't decide if I liked or not. My younger son was more direct, he felt it should not exist. Gotta love a critic as they say. My friend and accountability partner said I should probably do another and see where it goes. I took the challenge. I decided to continue with the theme: Carnivals.
I had tried to get the feeling of spinning with the first. Carnivals generally make me sad and if I eat anything, sick. I think this feeling came through on this first one and that's why my son didn't like it. I pieced this scene together from multiple pictures I had from a carnival we had gone to when my kids were young. It was a chilly day and the sky was white, a Pacific Northwest sky. I wanted to continue this feeling of being skewed and moving so I played with another picture to use as reference and started the second piece. I'm being vulnerable here as I hate to show work that I'm unsure about but I'm committing to letting this blog be authentic. That means showing the work I think sucks and working through it. Chances are no one will even see it out here on the edge of the internet anyway;)
I found this palette interesting but wanted to capture the more idyllic colors of the carnival so I searched the great abyss for more reference photos and skewed them as well. Abstraction became a thing for me at this point. An exercise in painting shapes and colors. A little voice in my head said it was an escape from the pressure of capturing a likeness, and maybe it was or maybe it was surrendering to the paint itself.
I didn't want to overthink it. I just wanted to get myself painting, exploring. It was like an exercise in college, non-attachment to the end result, just reveling in the process. This was how I found my voice in my sculpture again. I just made stuff and didn't question it, didn't judge it, I just saw where it led. Once there, I was able to look back and analyze it and find the meaning that had been buried in my subconscious.
Every now and again this gets a bit scary and I want to retreat into what's comfortable. During my last session I did this. I made a little dog portrait. This is my comfort zone as I've done many of these of my same old dog, Seuss. He was quite the muse. This type of painting is safe to me. A little respite from the challenge of these new paintings, of finding my voice again in painting. I never felt I was a dog portrait painter though I guess that's a thing. I want to push my boundaries, so I dare say you'll be seeing a bunch more bad paintings here if you follow my journey.
Now maybe writing this blog post is just me procrastinating from going back to work. While making art is my dream, don't ever think it isn't work. It is hard and satisfying, exhilarating and of course, scary. I'm going to do something scary now, I'll get back to you on how it goes.