So here's the thing about painting: it teaches you a lot about yourself. Especially about your courage, and your risk-taking potential.
I know, I know -- it takes courage in the first place, to invest in canvas, an easel, paint, and brushes; to create a studio environment that works for you; to bring your work out into the world...
But I'm actually talking about the act of painting itself. I have a very gentle teacher (sadly, I only attended two classes with him) who suggested I might need to work on my own, because every time he gave us an assignment I ended up in tears. There's such a huge part of me that says "can't" that it's hard for the part of me that knows she can to actually come out and set her brush to canvas.
Some of my issues, of course, date back to my childhood. The one I'm working on at the moment is a prohibition against repeating myself that dates back to second grade. I had drawn something that worked -- a house, in a yard, with sky, and bushes, and a bird in the sky -- and, since it worked, I kept drawing it. And my mom told me I had to stop drawing that and do something different.
I'm sure she was just worried that my eagerness to please was holding me back (it still does), but I wish she had waited until _I_ got tired of doing the same thing over and over, and CHOSE to move on. She was impatient, however, and so it's not surprising that she lost faith in my ability to get myself unstuck.
At any rate, I am now trying to give myself permission to explore a particular painting style -- by repeating myself, if necessary. So this is the fourth in a series, although if you look back over my body of work you can see I've been coming close to this style for a while now. The work consists of giving myself permission to repeat strokes, to use my favorite colors, and to explore familiar themes, in hopes that, given a comfortable and familiar context, I'll become bolder, more courageous.
The first image, called Evening Fire, was actually based (very loosely) on a painting I saw in Santa Fe. I actually like mine better than the original, so that's okay. The second was an attempt to recreate that effect in a horizontal frame, in colors that work with our new house. With the third, I narrowed the aspect ratio, went back to the blues (they make me happier) but kept it horizontal. And with the one above, I tried working in vertical again, but in a larger format, going strictly with what felt good.
But then I made the mistake of comparing it to the first painting. And it just didn't have the verve, the impact, the boldness of the first. Clearly there are elements in common, but... it feels timid to me. As if there's some invisible boundary I'm reluctant to cross, for fear of entering the bad taste zone... I don't seem to be getting bolder; instead, I've grown more careful.