art process

Dusting off the cobwebs

Oh, wow, I have a blog. I forgot. My pitiful excuse for such blatant blog-neglect is sleep deprivation  (see way way below).

To fill in the gaps since the last post: sleep-deprived-night followed by raucous baby-and-toddler filled day, set on loop, irregardless of date or circumstance. Insert some sanity and/or creativity in there somewhere, ...please.

Once again, through the tireless assistance of my husband (while on his vacation, poor thing) and my mother (who could also use some time in the studio) I've been able to squeeze in a few hours here and there to complete another portrait commission for a Helsinki University professor (which will be revealed later in October) and gradually develop a handful of figurative works. And I mean gradually. When my husband comes into the studio to peek at the day's progress, after I've proudly announced to him that I "painted three hours today!", all he can do is ask, with a polite smile, what exactly is different?

While it takes me only a couple of hours to model a face or hands in oil paint, it can take me hours upon hours to paint one layer of those blobby (my new "technical" term), abstract shapes, and then I have to wait a day or two to painstakingly render the next layer. This process goes light-years faster when done in acrylic paint, but I prefer the texture, handling and surface of oil paint (and ever since those university days when I would sleep, eat and paint in the same apartment room, I love the smell of oil paint too; no, I did not use solvents in enclosed spaces). I'm attempting to fuse figurative with blobby abstraction, and I prefer to use oil with the figurative work, so that means I have to be patient...

A little patience is a good thing for studio practice, but little patients aren't.

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...