Saturday, April 23, 2016

A work in progress

I've been struggling with this painting for over a week now, and I realized this morning that it has a lot to teach me.

It is, and I am -- as are we all -- a work in progress. There are parts I really like, and parts that just don't work.  It doesn't seem to have a coherent whole, but I really struggle when I start to paint over stuff: I worry I'll risk losing something that actually works, and won't find something better to take its place.

And part of the problem is that it's a do-over: like me, it has a history, and has shown some very different faces in its previous lives.  You can paint over that old stuff, but it still has a way of showing through, and the textures of the old life still exert their pull upon the new.

As any artist knows, this process, of finding and bringing out the art that was meant to be, can be very tedious -- and some things take so long you just want to give up and start all over.

But with this one, I set myself a challenge: I really wanted to find my own voice; to not look to the work of other artists to set the tone, or the composition, but to actually unearth it on my own.  Which means, of course, that in the process, with these repeated failures to redeem the canvas, I can't help but get discouraged and wonder if in fact I have no gift, no vision of my own.

Somehow it helps to step back and realize it's not unlike my life: there are times when everything seems to fall into place, and I know I'm on the right track, and then there are those other times,  when nothing's going the way I want it to, and I begin to wonder what on earth made me I could pull this off; when I want to crawl in a cave and hibernate until things are clear again.

But I made myself a promise: that I wouldn't start another painting until I finished this one -- maybe not to perfection, but at least to satisfaction.  Not that I'll power through, but that I'll sit with it and learn; that somehow I'll find a way to redeem the time and work that I've put in. I just have to trust that somehow in the process of living with my failures I'll find a way to integrate them into something that works.

Right now I'm not feeling all that optimistic. 

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