Thursday, January 6, 2011

Getting Back Into Shape


Looking For Memory Lane, 18 x 24 inches, oil on linen

This painting is available from Anne Irwin Fine Art

So after three weeks of not painting, I am struggling to get into the groove. My studio needs a lot of work still but I can't put off painting any longer, so I've set up my paints and did a few small (6 x 8) studies out of my head to grease the wheel and give myself a shove.  

As expected, it was a struggle not only to get past the white canvas but all the way through I had to think and try to remember how to paint! And even then my efforts were grossly unsatisfactory. The colors were too simplistic, my brush strokes clumsy, and drawing seemed utterly foreign to me. I wiped and restarted a few times, each time remembering a little more how to paint, but still not up to speed. 

Years ago I would go through periods of not painting (because I had to do illustration jobs on the computer, or whatever) immediately followed by periods of frustration and despair at the easel. 

Nowadays, I find it just as frustrating, but I don't despair. It's a normal part of re-starting the flow of my creative juices, and I've come to expect it. I just need to do a bunch of small, predictable studies until I remember how to paint. And I do eventually get there, sometimes it takes one or two studies, other times, a month or two. But even if it takes that long, I can feel it coming back as I work at it. The key is to do little paintings so that I don't mind it so much if I fail, because I do fail. By not expecting to do well, it frees me up. It's just a study, I tell myself. Just another warm up. Don't get uptight. Don't feel this is some precious thing that I need to do a perfect job on. The purpose of these little paintings is to get me back up to speed, not to make paintings I can send to galleries. Let's not lose sight of that purpose.

I'm itching to start big paintings and substantial projects, but I know that if I'm not up to speed I'll just fail at it, and that would be crushing. If I'm going to fail I want little failures. Not big ones. 

All this talk about expecting to fail. Pop psychologists would have a field day with this post, eh? Let me just say that I don't actually focus on the failure part. I'm a pragmatist, see. It's like sports. If you take a three week break from your regimen, can you really compete on your first day back at a professional level? It takes a while to get back into shape. It's unrealistic to expect otherwise, and painting is exactly the same way.

Anyway, so I'm doing some little paintings and failing at them. No problem. I'll soon be slinging paint at larger canvases with confidence.

By the way, the painting I'm posting today isn't one of those little failures. I did this one before the break, and I like it very much. Particularly the soft, subtle sky that feels like a California winter day.


6 comments:

  1. This one speaks to me. Nice, keep up the good work!

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  2. Ha! Terry! As I read your post I was asking myself,"What's he talking about? This looking for memory lane is great!"
    Anyway, I understand the momentum
    thing, you've got to keep moving and grooving.
    There are times when you have to "sit this one out."
    Wanting to be in the game at your best is a good desire to have.
    I think that's what resolutions are about.

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  3. I like this one very much too, Terry. In fact, your capture of that hazy distant horizon is so spot on! Absolutely brilliant piece to my mind. As to failure? I live it with each piece. Ultimately my stuff has the face only a mother could love, but love it I do. That is why I do it - simply for me.

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  4. ...Also trying to get back into my groove after the holidays, so I can sympathize!

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  5. thanks a bunch you guys~

    Still not into the groove, as of 1/10. This week I plan on focusing on establishing routine!

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