Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Staying in Process
"Hot Off the Press" original oil 6x6"
It's an ongoing challenge, how to stay in process. How does one avoid being lured out of process by shifting our focus to the end result before the painting is halfway done?
For the longest time I thought paintings should unfold in an undeviating line - beginning, middle, end. That it should be straightforward from start to finish, no detours, no wrong turns, a neat little process ending in a solid painting. Not so. Here's what mostly happens: I start out all excited and inspired, get some paint on the canvas and things are coming together reasonably well, and then the painting starts to go sideways. When that occurs it is remarkable to me how it feels like something is slipping away, how my focus shifts to, "Good God Ethel, what if it doesn't turn out? What if I've wasted all the time spent on it? What if my galleries fire me because I don't have enough paintings this month? What if I'm a total hack?" An imposter, as Robert Genn calls it. Suddenly the whole thing has ceased to be about painting a painting, and become about something else entirely.
After a lot of paintings and a lot of thinking like this, it began to occur to me that unless you're painting by a formula, pretty much EVERY SINGLE PAINTING does this at some point. Goes through the ugly duckling stage while it, not you, is figuring out if it's going to be a swan. It is not a static thing, what's unfolding on the easel, it's something that begins to take on a life of its own, to have its own ideas about the outcome. What's really cool is that it's willing to engage you in the process if you're paying attention, and when you are, that's painting a painting. Whatever the outcome.