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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Staying in Process...cont'

"Ready for Anything" original oil 6x6"

I received several responses to my last post, all from people saying they were affected by  3/4 painting paralysis. It seems to be quite universal, this making the painting precious once we're getting somewhere with it. The human aspect comes into play, when we like something we want to hold on to it...forever if possible. (Long time.) So then every brushstroke we put down starts to feel like moving away from what we have instead of moving toward something better, and instead of thinking about painting, we’re thinking about not screwing up the painting.

What’s the answer? The best one I have found is daily paintings. Doing lots of small paintings of short duration that don’t have a large time investment or big things riding on the outcome, creates a space for willingness to let it be what it will, to just paint. And I am definitely finding ever so slowly, this attitude is transferring to my larger work. The line between big and small, lots of time invested or little, commercial work or school work, is starting to fade. I am more willing to just keep putting paint down, even on the big guys - consequences be damned.

This past week I was working on a 24"x48" that started going south, and instead of freaking out, I sat down and listened. After a few moments, ever so quietly, the painting said, "I need to be a little bluer over here, oh yes, and lighter. A softer edge down here. And this shape needs some tweaking, don't you think?" Sometimes these things are spoken so softly they are barely a whisper. That's when I need to turn down the volume on my own ideas for the painting, because often it is exactly these that are drowning out what's essential.

PS: I am curious if this is more a female experience than male. Any male readers out there, it would be interesting to know if you share this sense of stress mid-painting as it's sorting itself out, or if you're all just supremely confident from beginning to end...  :)


  1. Oh my gosh Liz! You can articulate so well the feelings of being an artist. That 3/4 done is a common place to start using caution rather than throwing it to the wind.
    Letting your painting talk to you is a strategy I pursue, but it takes walking away for a little while before I can come back and listen.

    I love the light shining through the lemon with the seed stopping it, well done!

  2. Well said, Liz! You've spoken for all of us that go through this stage. I don't know about the men though!!

  3. Love this dynamic red and the way it bounces off of everything. Terrific reflections!

    And what a great post! You summed it up perfectly and gave me so many points to consider.

  4. Love the lemons on red. I have always struggled with lemons in paintings because of their cool colors. I love the translucency of the lemons.
    I enjoyed and relate to your thoughts. I struggle every day to be patient with myself and paintings. I am just starting to try larger still lifes and it is way more involved than small ones. It is so smart to leave a painting for a while and see it with new eyes and insight.

  5. Liz, you are so good at putting into words what I experience with that 3/4 done comment. I need to take your advice and take a break when needed and let the painting dictate what is next. Thank you!

    Beautiful painting with that saturated red! The silver bowl is nicely done, too. It's all good!

  6. That’s a good way of putting it Dana, using caution instead of throwing it to the wind. Actually seems like a crazy thing to do when put that way, but the more I paint the more I realize that careful is good, but caution is lethal.

    Thanks all of you for sharing your comments and insights.

  7. Liz, I am really enjoying this thread! When I am making a daily drawing, which I find easy relative to a daily painting, I don't have the 3/4 issue that I have with a painting. Maybe that is because I can do several daily drawings and choose the one I like best, or simply that they take less time than a daily painting, so, as you say, there is even less invested. Do you find that when you are painting something that is "easy" for you, there is less of the 3/4 problem?

  8. Hey Bobbi..."painting" and "easy" in the same sentence? :-)

    I can honestly say that no painting is ever totally easy for me from start to finish, but I do find the 3/4 problem is less of an issue when I am doing an exercise of any kind, rather than something I intend to share with the world. With exercises, I'm more into doing, more present - instead of down there at the finish line looking back at how I'm progressing toward it.

    Guess it's kinda like the difference between rehearsal and stage fright. That and all the other fears that come with your art supporting you.

    In the end, you just have to paint. As Robert Burridge says, "While I am doing my work, I am aware of the fact that there are thousands of other artists right now in their own studios going through the same mind-chatter and fears that I'm going through. Simply, artists learn how to proceed, or they don't."

  9. Hi Liz;
    I loved reading this and the previous one as well. It sure hit home and such a great description of something i thought was only happening to me! Such fun. I get excited at the beginning stage of a painting, the planning and drawing, then dread the middle when it so often looks like it is going south as you say. It is then i have to take it to another room, lean it up against a wall and just look at it for a long time waiting for it to lead me off to where it wants to be taken. I once tried to describe to a non-painter person how a painting will speak to me and let me know what needs to be done. Not so sure i will try to explain that one again as i had him giving me some very strange looks. I could tell he was just humoring me by pretending to know what the heck i was talking about. Smile! So it is not just a female thing after all as i am sure there are other guys who experience this. I'll be interested to see if any others reply. Oh, and i love your lemons. Wonderful light...
    Ross Lynem

  10. I love "Ready for Anything" Liz for it's boldness in color.
    Pretty heavy what you have been questioning here and something I have spoken about in the past with another Artist. We always seemed to have an adrenalin rush with starting a new painting and then when it's progressed to 3/4's, all seems to go south. Really start to sweat when it's a commissioned piece too. Yet miraculously it generally resolves itself and ends up very nice, unless I really stress out and work the piece to death. To minimize this feeling, I normally work on about 9 paintings in several sizes at all times.