Phew – glad that’s over

Moroccan Door
It is January 1st of 2013 and I for one will admit that I am glad we’ve opened a new door. A different door. Phew. That last one was a rough one.

It will be nice to begin painting on a clean canvas again instead of trying to make that old canvas into something great. There were too many flaws on it – too much tragedy happened on that canvas…and in spite of the good parts that I certainly enjoyed, last year was just too bad for too many and it will always be tarnished with global dysfunctionality.

I knew someone once, an artist who was a fine watercolorist, who could not bring himself to start the agony of a new painting – the whiteness of the paper, the clean-ness of it, the size of it that he knew he had to cover, and the enormity of staring at a pristine piece of expensive watercolor paper just scared the crap out of him. It intimidated him so much that he couldn’t bring himself to make the first gesture of creativity. Days went by….so he developed a habit of taking the paper outside and running over it with his car, or leaving it out in the weather for a couple days. Then it seemed more inviting and forgiving to his imperfect touch. The pressure was off.

As with life experiences, it pays to revisit past paintings that you were never happy with and see them in the light of a new day. Doing that is a teachable moment in which you learn volumes about yourself and your work. In my Mixed Media Collage class I put aside special time to be devoted to second chances. I call this class DAMAGE CONTROL. I invite students to bring in a couple older pieces that were shoved to the back of the pile and left to die a slow death so that you can save these dysfunctional attempts from suffering and breathe life back into them. You must undertake the challenge of this process on a day when you are feeling like you could rule the world and be the best leader anyone has ever known. You must be confident and in control and ready to see possibilities you never saw before. Whatever you do, do not accept any personal blame you might insist on giving yourself for the “failure” of this sad art. Ignore that inner voice who always wants to criticize. Shake it off and prepare to take some risk. Make painful sacrifices, if necessary, of areas you love in favor of the greater good of the entire composition (I call this Democratic Painting), and then go about covering up/exposing, enhancing/destroying, editing/embellishing and loosening up/refining. I realize those terms are contradictory but in painting it is what we do best.

What you get after a day or so of doing this might astound you. In a good way! When everything is finished, let it sit for another day in a room where you cannot see it at all, and then one morning allow yourself to walk in on it unannounced and LOOK. Really LOOK, using someone elses eyes to “see” the results because you do not want to be judging with your same old raggedy stuck-in-a-rut eyes. Wake up and drink it all in as if you never saw it before.
I predict you like what you truly see. And so a new day has begun with you and the paint.

Some would argue that today is the same as yesterday and January 1st means nothing. But I happen to value life’s demarcations, thinking if something is official then it carries importance and I can track my life by the changes that come with those red-flagged days on my calendar. I say this – let’s open the door today to life’s fresh offerings. Let’s boldly open it – not just peek around it as it remains mostly closed. We are going to see and do things this year that we have never done before. You need to believe that most of what happens will be better than it has ever been. Some of what happens won’t be pleasant or positive but all of it is the life-force flowing through us and as long as we have a pulse we should embrace it and walk directly into it so that we can came out on the other side.

Seldom do you get a second chance, a re-do, an opportunity to tweek what has kind of fallen flat once before. But with art, and sometimes with life, you do. Let the new games begin.

5 responses to “Phew – glad that’s over

  1. I’ve been meaning to come back to this post. It must seem daunting some times to face a blank canvas and put that first mark on it. Your story of your friend running over the watercolor paper with his car a few times first made me smile. And I’m finding that for photography, if you’re doing any kind of post processing, it is good to make the changes, let it sit and take another look like you say in your post. I’ll be posting a photo where I did that soon.

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