|Joan Snyder, LIFE OF A TREE 2007, oil,
acrylic, cloth, berries, papier-mâché, glitter, nails, pastel, on linen
People say a lot of things. People think a lot of things. As a painter you may feel pretty good, maybe things are flowing, maybe things are going your way, but just like that, a painting can bring you to your knees. Just like that a painting can take you right back to the beginning, right back to feeling like a beginner, right back to feeling clueless.
This is especially true if you get stuck on a painting. Maybe you have some expectations. Maybe you have dug yourself a hole. Maybe those go together. Maybe you had an idea that just won't ever fly, and you're too stubborn to admit it, scrap it, or change direction, or go back. You think something is on the other side of this impasse. That you can turn this no into a yes. After all, you've been here a million times before and you have made it to the other side and have done some of your best work as a result. But maybe this time is different. Maybe this time is really a flop. Maybe you don't have what it takes anymore or you have just bitten off more than you can chew. You despair. Welcome to painting. Welcome to everything.
John Walker, Study for Coastal Cross II, 2011, oil on canvas 121.9 x 91.4cm
So for all your success, recognition, adulation, talent, skill, sales, experience, fame, background, pedigree, track record, desire, ambition, brilliance, genius, whathaveyou, you are beaten, broken, a baby, a wreck, crazy, a lost soul. A painting can do that. It can fill you to the brim with doubt. Any painter worth his salt, that has taken great risks, gone out on countless limbs, and found themselves all of a sudden in unfamiliar territory, has experienced this time and again. Some painters dare to go there everyday, unstoppable, and they still get frustrated, somehow finding themselves going in circles, repeating themselves, back at the beginning, back in familiar territory. They look down and realize that not only are those footprints that they see are theirs, but that there are zillions of them, that they have been through here many, many times.
In the back of your mind you tell yourself not to panic. Something always comes of it. You will have a breakthrough. But there is still that nagging doubt. Maybe you're done. Maybe this is the end of the road. Maybe you don't have it anymore. Maybe you never did. Maybe this has all been a charade. What made you think that you could do this. What made you think that it meant something. Maybe it is not your turn. Maybe you are just one more wreck on the side of the road to success. Maybe you are being fitted for a place in the seventh circle of hell. Maybe you just missed the boat. Welcome to painting. Welcome to everything.
|Bill Jensen, With Color XXIV, 2009.
Egg and oil tempera on paper,
20-1/2 x 14-3/4 inches.
They say that when you find yourself in a hole, that you should stop digging. They say, don't stop painting, just paint something else. Let go! But the thing about being a painter is, you can't. That's what makes you a painter. If you could have let go you would of done something else. What? If you could have let go you wouldn't have put yourself through this. If you could have let go you wouldn't have searched for meaning from a tube of paint, in the layers and colors and juxtaposition of form, in the transformation of form, in the reinvention of form, in the metamorphosis of being. You would have just been. But no. Not you. There is a yes there. An epiphany. Somewhere. And you're going to find it. Welcome to painting. Welcome to everything.
It's ok. Happy painting.
Spring Hill, Feb. '16
|Nina Nielsen;VOLGA (2012-2013); 24 x 18 inches;
oil and sand on canvas