My painting "I'm Ready" took five and a half months to complete. I worked on it nearly every day. As the months went by I was baffled: how long could it possibly take?
Yours in the love of beauty and spirit,
The thing is, I had made a commitment to follow my intuition without question on this piece. The title, or seed idea, had to do with becoming my unabashed self. Apparently I wasn't as "ready" as I thought! So I just kept plugging away, indulgently and curiously.
The painting started out happily enough. My inner vision of the dominant form was a lavender curtain revealing mysterious stuff behind it. So here I'm developing some activity that will go behind the curtain (1-3).
In the last shot above (4), the lavender curtain has come down.
This was just a starting point, but I already knew I was in compositional trouble. Usually by this stage I have some kind of structure to hang my painterly explorations on.
But the small target in the middle and the lack of large value action (light and dark) meant that, as an artist who loves beauty over expression, my job filling this sizable canvas would be much harder: I would have to make a statement D:
If you look at my bumbling attempt below (5), you'll see that was a dark day for me. I was ready to give up painting. How was it possible that after decades as an artist I could produce something so awful, so chopped up, incoherent, and ugly? I felt sick looking at it.
Thankfully, my practice of daily painting "no matter what" forced me to plow forward instead of sitting on it for weeks as I might otherwise have done. With nothing to lose, I boldly outlined a large dark shape that helped organize the space (6).
Also, in good faith I did the basic housekeeping that I knew needed to be done: open up the sky, clarify the one nice large form on the left, and make sense of the "happy accident" wiggles at the bottom. Sometimes it's just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other.
Then I had an "inspiration" to add white linework all over the place (7). I got really into it - until I stepped back and saw that the whole thing had become a confusing mess again! This was another dark day. I felt quite sure I was not a real artist.
Luckily I happened to download this photo, and seeing it on my computer I thought, "What would I tell a client?" I immediately knew it needed a band of teal at the base of the heavy rock (8).
That was a turning point, because now it was much easier to find things to love. And when I can find things to love, I can hear the voice of the painting spirit. It feels like a wise vibration hovering around my painting.
As I make choices in painting, I check in with it and either feel a joyful "go ahead this way" - or an empty "not interested." Many are my moments of exhilaration following the surprising guidance and delightful solutions of the painting spirit.
So now I added deep colors underneath and knew these were burning embers (9). Then smoky, ghostly forms rose up, creating a transparent torso of complex organs (10).
Finally the smoke took over (11) and the flames followed (12), ending in a hearth-on-the-beach kind of form (13) with something very mysterious being consumed or rising from the flames. It was done. I had come through the lavender curtain.
I didn't have a clue what others would see in this painting or how they would react. Was it overworked?
Interestingly, people were drawn to it like moths to a flame. Moreso than paintings that came more easily, the depth of work in this one seemed to captivate viewers longer and generate heartfelt conversation and imaginings.
No one has ever asked me if I was ready to give up painting over it.
If you're ready to take your own risks exploring Unknown Territory - with loving guidance - please check out my workshop, The Inspired Abstract, coming up this weekend or in October.