No matter how many times I struggle through frustrating, slow times in the studio followed by productive, exciting times (and no matter how many times I write about that cycle on this blog) I am always grateful for the breakthrough, and rather amazed at its appearance. Although from experience I know it that it will always happen, in its own way, on its own schedule, it is always a relief. (A bit like spring here in the frozen north, I guess!)
From December through early February, I struggled with five (later consolidated to four) 30"x30" pieces, painting and repainting them, advancing a bit on some days and on others starting over (pleased at least to have an interesting base of color and texture from all the going-over and wiping out!) My goal was to have two paintings of this size to send to my agent in Ireland (I wanted to offer him choices.) I also intended to put my best foot forward and to have the work sent off in a timely way.
During those months, I worked with determination, but not a lot of joy. Of course there were some good days, but overall this time (which will be familiar to my artist readers) had a nose-to-the-grindstone quality that is not my favorite working mood. Still, I was dedicated to finishing the work and I stuck it out, with results in the end that were very pleasing to me. I have since sent two of these paintings to Ireland and a third, shown below, is promised to my new gallery in Toronto...Blue Cliff
. (Blue Cliff
appears in my January 16th blog post photo, third from the left...and I thought when I wrote that post that it was nearly done!)
Once the paintings were finished and dealt with, near the end of February, that particular logjam broke, and the time since has been very productive, with several new directions emerging. This is typical of the pattern I've observed over time: the aftermath of a blocked or slow time is usually super-charged with good work and ideas, a reward for sticking it out through the difficult times. The mental picture of backed-up water finally breaking through some obstruction of its flow seems apt.
What led to this this particular obstruction was a bit of a mystery to me...the project of completing these four paintings was not much different from preparing for a show or completing a commission, which I have done many times without undue stress. But I realize in retrospect that I put limitations on myself that actually worked against me. Instead of including the four as part of the body of work in progress, I shut down everything else to focus on them exclusively, reasoning that this was the most efficient way to get them finished. But, my normal process, which has developed over the years to suit my particular personality and artistic character, is to move freely between numerous paintings, and to keep the arrangement of panels and resulting sizes in flux. So, I learned something: when I need "X" number of paintings in "X" size, actually the most efficient approach for me is to integrate those panels into all the rest of my ongoing work, giving them their share of attention but not my exclusive focus.
I have to smile at this realization--I like to think I am aware of my process and what works for me, yet obviously I can still give in to a "logical" part of my brain that thinks it knows best! Once again I humbly bow to that wise phrase that stands the test every time... "Trust the Process." In this case, recognizing and respecting my intuition about how to approach this project would have saved me some grief.
Of course there were probably other, more elusive reasons behind the bit of creative block I was feeling...new directions incubating, experiences being integrated. Accepting a slow-down gracefully when such mental shifts are underway is also part of trusting the process.
One result of my new-found energy in the studio is a series of as yet untitled 12"x12" paintings (one is shown at the beginning of this post) in which gestural solvent lines are prominent.