Saturday, June 9, 2012

When failure looms

Hmm.  In attempting to do a better painting of the same image, I seem to have fallen victim to something I knew when working in the software industry as "second system syndrome."  According to PC magazine (you can find a longer definition in the Wikipedia), second system syndrome refers to "a condition that occurs after a first system has been implemented. When it seems to be working well, designers turn their attention to a more elaborate second system, which is often bloated and grandiose and fails due to its over-ambitious design. In the meantime, the first system may also fail because it was abandoned and not continually refined."

Perhaps I should have realized this concept might apply to painting, as well.  But my second attempt at painting the image I've displayed here over the last two days was definitely... well.  Actually, now that I'm looking at it again, I think it may actually be truer to the original than the first painting.  But it's still haunted by the frustration I feel about copying reality.  I suspect I was wise to embark on painting with a determination to stay in the world of abstract...

But what's interesting is what all of this is bringing up for me: the painting efforts are triggering -- or perhaps reflecting -- the re-emergence of that old demon, "what are you doing with your life?" (not to be confused with Mary Oliver's famous question...) I look now at the art I've been so excited about these last two years and just groan.  I miss writing the daily poems, but am tired of turning out drivel.  The photographs I'm mounting for next week's exhibit were mostly shot, like this one, years ago. And, having applied for a job, I keep looking in the mirror and realizing that, however young I feel, what potential employers will probably see is not wisdom and experience but rather someone too old to bring the fresh perspective they think they want.

So now what?  What is it about vocation that becomes, instead of a noble sense of calling, an ugly should that rises up, shaking a finger and asking "Why are you wasting your time on THIS?" I am comforting myself with the thought that I've been a really good mom.  But -- and this must be some sort of aging crisis (how trite of me!) -- I can't help but wonder what, despite the gifts and talents I've been given, I really have to show for myself.

... and some other part of me is standing, hands on hips, and asking, "So.  You want some cheese with that whine?"


Judy Olson said...

A guy I used to work with was a fantastic nature photographer. When he started painting, he painted the most surreal abstracts using rather gaudy colors. Dreamscapes, I'd guess you'd call them. A woman was standing with him at an exhibition, where both mediums were on view, and she said, "Why don't you paint your photographs, they're so beautiful!" And he replied, "Why would I do that? I already have what I want in the photo."

I'm not suggesting you stop trying to paint your photos. If one is learning to paint, what better way to learn? But I think failure will be a part of the process. Your photographs are excellent and your paintings will be learning experiences until you get to be excellent at it. If that's what you want. If you just want to play with paint, color, luminance, let a photograph inspire an abstract.

(I can't remember how I came to your blog, I saw it on someone's blog list... I enjoy your photography and your thought process.)

Blessings to you!

Diane Walker said...

Thank you, Judy; it helps to hear this!