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   Welcome to my blog! I'll be posting thoughts about art, photos, happenings, and other things that strike me--and hopefully my readers--as interesting. And please visit my website by clicking the link to the right--thanks!

   Also please check out my second blog, The Painting Archives to see older (pre-2004) paintings for sale.


Thursday, December 31, 2009
  self-critique

One of the most essential skills for an artist is to be self-critical--not as in "oh, terrible me, I'm no good at all" (although I guess most of us have lived at times with that awful conviction) but in a way that identifies, confronts and moves through problems. It's very hard to achieve the distance and clarity to do this, and sometimes another person's eyes are needed. But I think that ultimately you have to be able to critique yourself in a tough but positive manner, so that you can keep on track during all that studio time when you are by yourself with no feedback from anyone.

I have a list of criteria that I use as a check-list--though really it isn't as methodical as that sounds. Usually a quick scan through will help me pinpoint a problem. Very often, if something isn't working, I see that there is either too much happening in the painting (confusion, lack of focus and direction) or too little--the curse of the subtle painter, caught up in each minute nuance and losing the energy of the painting as a whole. I try to be sensitive to these and other bad habits that can undermine the good progression of a painting. (Knowing what to do about them is usually a harder job.)

As much as a person may analyze and question work in progress, sometimes the insightful truth chooses to arrive at an awkward moment, say, at the opening of an exhibit or when a deadline is imminent. This is a real challenge, keeping one's cool while acknowledging that a change is due. (Once--years ago--I suddenly saw, in the middle of an opening, that my work had descended to a level of subtlety that could only be called monotonous...)

Usually, the knowledge that I will be exhibiting my paintings in the near future (which is the case right now--my show at Circa Gallery in Minneapolis opens in just over a month) serves to sharpen my vision and energize me in a good direction. Although I used to suffer a lot of pre-show anxiety, at this point I take exhibiting pretty much in stride and can work steadily towards the opening date in a good frame of mind, without much inner drama.

But frankly, this has been a difficult week in the studio--a couple of paintings have come along well, but they are the exception. Most of my time has been spent slipping into ruts, making mud, spinning my wheels, and losing my sense of direction (insert additional cliches for describing frustration here!) Of course, I know this is all part of the process, and I'll bear with it--and fortunately I am not down to the wire yet. There is still plenty of time left to pull things together, and I'm confident that I will. Still it has not been a good week, and I am definitely ready for a new one. (Actually, a whole New Year sounds like a great idea!)

There is also a thought that comforts and sustains me as I pick at and tweak and fuss and rip things apart--I am aware that this sometimes ridiculous-seeming degree of fine tuning is what makes my work mine. Many abstract painters work with the same basic elements--color fields, geometric divisions, layered textures--that I do, but each of us has our own individual way of resolving the infinite number of details and nuances of our own work. My own are very labor-intensive and intuitive...meaning a great deal of trial and error is involved. Yet every layer leaves its rich traces, even when totally wiped outwith solvent. There are really no mistakes.

(The above painting, Remebering Catalunya #2 (60"x36") is one that I did manage to finish early this week. )
 
Comments:
Yes, the dreaded self-questioning phase.
Thankfully, it usually leads to growth.
Thankfully...!
 
Rebecca I think this "I am aware that this sometimes ridiculous-seeming degree of fine tuning is what makes my work mine." is such an important point. It's so easy to want to be like other people, to find an easier way etc, but then it's no longer your work.
It is something I have been getting some clarity round recently, so your post really speaks to me.
I hope things go well for you in the run-up, this week is kinder to you, and 2010 ROCKS!
 
A very good post, timely because I've been evaluating my work too...thinking along the same lines...I fear that painting rut, monotonous...such a fiend. I wobble back and forth between painting and drawing, then I write books too, so I get away from it frequently enough to gain fresh eyes. I always come away from your blog feeling energized by the colors and textures that you produce. Thanks for sharing your work with us, and I wish you the best, happy new year!

Laura
 
Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!
 
Rebecca -- thanks for stopping by my blog and yes, I can see that I'm not alone in this struggle! Congratulations on your sales and the upcoming exhibit, too!
 
I really appreciate all of these thoughtful comments. They are what keeps me blogging--
 
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