It’s strange how the creative process works, at least for me.
I was in the studio this week, working on a large still life of tulips. I finished up all I wanted to do for the day, but had some paint left on the palette that I didn’t want to waste. So I looked around the studio and pulled out a canvas I had worked on several months previously and had set aside, not much caring for the progress I had made. I started messing around with the left-over paint, and suddenly the painting came to life for me. It is now almost complete. It’s called “Musquodoboit Trail #2: Spring Ice”, and it should be in the gallery next week.
Similarly, and again this week, I had left-over paint on the palette. I pulled out a painting I thought I had finished five years ago, and had actually signed (usually the last step in my painting process). I had never been completely satisfied with it, so started applying paint to see what would happen. Again, I was pretty happy with the result, and the twice “finished” painting will hopefully be in the gallery next week. It’s called “Fall Colours, Windsor, NS”.
As an artist, I am coming to realize that painting is like a “U”. I start out with the blank canvas, and the initial paint strokes are full of optimism and promise. I’m at the top of the “U”. As I work away and the days pass, the progress becomes fraught with judgement, and then discouragement. I’m at the bottom of the “U”. Perhaps I set the painting aside for a week, a month, a year, FIVE YEARS. I work on other pieces, complete them, am happy with them. But the old “failures” are leaning against the walls in the studio, waiting.
So I realize that I must reframe my thinking. Those canvases leaning against the walls of the studio are dormant potential, dormant possibilities. A bit of distance (i.e. time) allows me and the work to breathe. I can accumulate some successes, some experience, some satisfaction with other efforts, then take another look at the “failures”, seeing them with fresh eyes and a different frame of mind.
A lesson in painting, and in life.