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Monday, December 03, 2007
  a thought
When do you set aside a painting--decide it is not worth pursuing at least in its current form? (Ignoring inner voices which proclaim "finish what you start" or "don't give up...")

That question came up this morning when my friend Mark paid a studio visit. He said that he will abandon a painting when he feels that it is not leading him into new territory. I liked that...the idea of the painting pulling you along. When you are pulling it, often it is towards the tried and true, and that robs you both of energy and vitality.

There are also times for me when I'm too intent on expressing something that is indeed a new idea, but one that has formed in my mind, as opposed to having evolved naturally out of the process. It seems better in both cases to back off and start again. Or paint over or wash out...anything to steer clear of that insidious energy drain of trying to force a painting to work.
 
Comments:
Ha! You should see the hallway outside my studio! Fortunately it only leads to a seldom used basement bedroom because it's nearly impassable. Stacks of half finished paintings are in 'time out' due to that push pull issue ;-) Amazing how a week or so later one will catch my eye and seem like a whole new painting (propping them sideways helps!)
 
I don't require that every project lead me into new territory. Some of my favorite work explore the same territory again and again, much like walking the same path through the woods. I may see new things, but when I don't, it is still just as engaging.
 
Thanks for the comments...and yes, I can see what you're saying, Daniel...I guess that "new" might only be a very subtle change, not radical.

I think that Mark meant that overall, he wants to be moving forward...and sometimes in the case of a painting you can really get mired for days (once in my case, for months!)in something that is going no where. I'm not sure what the equivalent experience would be in photography (?) I hadn't thought of this topic as being specific to certain media or processes, but maybe it is.

One interesting thing I've noted, and forgot to put in my post, is that in the cases where I have broken free of a particularly frustrating, dead end painting, the next couple I do often seem to come along with clear focus, almost effortlessly. Which reinforces the idea that abandoning the one that wasn't working was the right thing--and maybe shows that there was progress being made even while it seemed there was none.
 
A PS for my reply to Daniel, I just read through the recent post on your blog about works in progress and all that goes into your approach to photography--I realize my remark above might be taken to mean that I think of photography as a simple, one click thing...I don't...but still I did not realize the enormous time and care you take as you work with your imagery. I really enjoyed reading about this, very interesting, and you have admirable patience for probing very deeply. It is all giving me food for thought.
 
Ah, I see: Mark meant moving forward as in moving towards completion. I thought he meant always doing new things. That makes sense.

Rebecca, I have the same experience a lot. I'll be working on a subject, taking picture after trying to capture the right image of it. Then in frustration I'll move the camera, or accidentally hit the tripod and knock it out of whack -- and in that moment I'll finally find the image I was looking for. I think you often have to pay a toll to achieve some serendipity!
 
Rebecca, I agree with the idea of just shelving a piece for a while when I get "stuck." And for me, getting stuck usually happens when I'm trying to force things, like when there's a deadline. I hate when that happens!
 
Moving forward without forcing things--I guess that's what we are after...
 
Hmmm. I never give up on a painting, but when they are behaving badly I do sometimes send them to "time-out" for 4-5 months.

Sometimes paintings, like life, just resolve themselves at their own speed.
 
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