So much of the process in painting is thought and attitude rather than action, and I have been mulling this over for months. Since early summer, when my work began to sell quickly in Santa Fe, the challenge to produce a lot of work has not let up. The basic dilemma is how to be really productive while keeping fresh ideas flowing and my self-critical side engaged. Though I try not to show it, I tend to bristle when I hear, "wow, you must really be cranking them out!" (said often even by well-meaning friends and family.) Is it just me, or does that not imply factory production-line images? Disregard of my own standards? Compromising my principles? Selling my art soul to the devil? (But I over-react.)
Over the six months or so since I've been in high gear in the studio, I can see that changes and new ideas are entering my work at about the same rate they always have. But there is a difference--now I'm doing more paintings between changes. So indeed there are more similar-looking paintings than there used to be. Before I saw the bigger picture, this worried me--"cranking out," indeed?"--but my friend Mark commented "there is nothing wrong with doing a lot of paintings" and I have to agree. The rise of new ideas seems to be an organic process that can't be rushed, but in the meantime producing a lot of paintings has its benefits beyond increased sales. The faster pace has me feeling more on top of my game, I guess you could say--more skilled and efficient at the technical part of the process, with fewer false starts, and less time spent mucking around, or benched by lack of creative energy. There is a momentum I'm enjoying, that seems to be working out well.
But there are certainly things I have to beware of. My painter friend Marina Broere's recent blog post
mentions what she calls the "corner of the eye" period, in which she keeps a painting in view for awhile, though not in center stage, to see how well it holds up before declaring it finished. It made me go back and re-read my own words
(on the artist page of my website, under "essays") about the mental work of painting. This is the crucial stuff that must be retained. The temptation to cut short evaluation and reflection in the rush to get a painting crated and off to the gallery can be very strong, and I know I've given in to it more than once. I'm trying to give myself a break though--and to stay calm, and do whatever is the next thing that needs to be done with my full attention.