I'm writing this in a transitional time, organizing and packing for five weeks in Sweden, most of them at Ricklundgarden
in the far north of the country. That is where my friend Janice Mason Steeves
and I will be teaching a workshop, followed by an artist residency for our own work. The trip is only a few days away now, and as always before a big trip, details and loose ends loom enormously.
My brain is tired from decision-making. Some of the decisions are pretty trivial--the blue sweater or the white one? Some seem more crucial, especially the ones about art materials--how much paper, which tubes of paint, how many colors of pastel? It all gets down to prioritizing space in the limited contents and weight of a suitcase and carry-on.
But of course, it's all in preparation for an opportunity I am thrilled to have, so I need to keep that perspective! And taking time out for my blog is a nice break from all the details of my to-do list.
|The Silence Of Ancient Surfaces, 32"x48" oil and mixed media on panel|
Interestingly, the brain fatigue from making so many choices seems very similar to what I generally experience at the end of a painting day--when I am often more mentally fatigued than physically. While I am perfectly able to continue putting down paint, my brain can take no more. Even though the choices I make while painting are intuitive and spontaneous for the most part, choices are still being made below the surface of my awareness. Somehow, these intuitive moves seem to be as consuming of energy as those pondered more consciously (and there are plenty of those as well.)
I'm often amazed at the number of decisions required to "make something out of nothing", to go from a blank panel to a finished work. Especially in process-generated abstraction, in which the journey shapes the work, every step along the way is a choice of direction. Countless decisions are made, over the course of one day, and over all the days it takes to complete a painting. Including of course, the final, difficult one of knowing when the work is done.
As with any project (including packing for a trip) the decisions begin broadly with choices of panel and general concept, and become more and more precise and fine in the stages of editing and revising. I have always been picky about the last phase--the fine-tuning of my work. Adding bits here and there, standing back, living with it all for a few days to see what else might need a small tweak. I love this stage, when it seems that any small changes are all for the good. For me, this time for making small adjustments is crucial in order to feel the work is truly finished. I'm looking for the point at which nothing more needs to be added or deleted, and then I call it done.
The painting posted above, The Silence of Ancient Surfaces
, is one I recently brought to completion. The final details, a series of dark markings with charcoal across the surface, brought a satisfying depth that I had felt was lacking before that step.
Now I'm smiling, thinking back to my packing-for-a-trip analogy. Today is the day for fine-tuning. Musing about the decisions involved in painting make packing seem pretty easy.
I'll be posting from Sweden next time, with photos and tales of the trip. I hope you will follow along!