The Discerning Look

Five-eighths of the painting process is observation. And that's not just the ogling of model/landscape/ripe peach before slapping paint on canvas. It doesn't matter what the subject is, be it from reality, imagination or computer-generated monkey. You have to take time to actually look closely at the evolving composition and decide what's working and what isn't. The discerning look is the editing process. Just like writing a blog post on this computer: no matter how good I may be at touch-typing, I still have to read and edit the content. That said, here is another lament of the dastardly 'middles'. I find myself pushing ahead in paintings without taking the time to step back and take a good look. In university this was simple to do:  a professor interrupted to give feedback, or a smoke/coffee break came up at regular intervals, or exhaustion called for a time-out on the studio floor. I don't know where this pressure to complete work is coming from; I don't have a pressing deadline (not yet, let's see what happens by June). I'm harboring an irrational guilt that causes me to not feel productive unless I'm with brush-in-paint-on-canvas.

I need to externalize this pressure by getting a pressing deadline; the last time I had a one I was at my most productive. A commission or two would do the trick nicely.

Perhaps this is run-of-the-mill motherhood guilt masquerading as work-practice guilt. I'm still mastering the juggling of baby-watching time versus studio time. I say 'baby', but he might as well be freshman in high school, it's a developmental light year between the first 24 hours to 9 months. I've been instructed to and I do enjoy time with the baby; I am not about to give that up. It's the scheduling studio time I can't get my head around (the baby has his schedule). I've tried working out babysitting times with my mother, but as the studio is in our house (appropriated room, until budget allows for another space or remodeling takes it back), I find that I still end up running after diaper changes, feeding times and naps. I never pegged myself as a controlling type. I have full confidence in my mother's abilities as caretaker (she has demonstrated full competency while we've been out for 8 hours, and of course, there's me as Exhibit A), and yet I am too easily distracted even with studio doors closed.

My husband-slash-manager-slash-pep talker just suggested he blog for me so that I would paint more.  That's another area I can't seem to schedule well either: career management/promotion/development. Social media multitasking eats up a lot of time (if I want to think before I type). Plus there are the old channels of email, phone and post. I've got to make time to do everything: gallery networking, documentation, new projects (painting and other), grant applications, interminable waiting for replies (that takes time too! Rumination crams itself into the schedule), research, blogging/tweeting/fb-ing...

The Accursed 'Middles'

There are four paintings glaring at me! Or they hiss and whisper menacingly at me when I traipse through the studio on some non-art-related errand. They are irked that I haven't finished them. I've left them hanging in the accursed 'middles'. I had no trouble starting them; I'd even go as far as to say I might have experienced a bit of exhilaration in the process...But then I hit the doubt-wall, hard: how do I finish the paintings without ruining them.

A few months ago I was procrastinating over starting things, most things, not just paintings. I got over the inertia by setting up a little system, and I thought that once over the initial bit it would be a smooth process. Now the trouble is the interminable middle bit. Starting a painting is a doddle; I can't put one aside quick enough to get to the next. At this rate I will have a studio full of possibilities within a couple of months. To analyze my behavior, I'd say that I'm enjoying the potential of great paintings without having to endure any failures. Can't mess up what ya don't touch.

Two of the paintings were started in an unusual circumstance. Generally I listen to the radio or music collection while working. With these two paintings I was listening to a strange audio book (I grabbed on an impulse) from the library, and now every time I look at them, I hear the narration in my head. I've convinced myself that I can't work on them again until I borrow that specific audio book again. It was "Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror", by Chris Priestly (Dave Roberts is the illustrator, but as it was the audio book version I wasn't able to appreciate his work.). The book and paintings have no correlation besides what's in my head. There are plenty of ways to associate bright and colorful with dark and creepy, though that is not the intention of these paintings.