Saturday, March 13, 2010

Season In Silence

People always ask me, "Is painting hard?" It certainly is for me. Here are a few things I try to keep in mind.

If my schedule allows, I try to paint at the same time each day. The 24-hour body clock has a good memory and sometimes my body can lead me when my mind is lagging.

I have a half dozen canvases or panels kicking around so I can switch over when I am stuck or wish to start anew.

I try not to be so fast to critique myself. I'll put the day's work aside and begin fresh the next day without looking at the previous painting. I'll let a picture season in silence for a few days or weeks out of view. My eyes and brain get a rest.

Procrastination is an inevitable part of the process. Rather than fight it, I try to make it nourishing. My psyche is often telling me it's time to "take in." I'll write in a notebook, walk the neighborhood with my painter's eyes, read poetry, sketch, play music (on an instrument), or set up a soup to simmer while I work.

Most advice for writers applies to painters. One piece of advice is to paint what you know - your shoes, your dog, the house next door, a friend wearing a hat. Writers write about their process but not many painters do. I have a library of books on writing to help me with my painting.

I resist using photographs as reference, preferring to use my own eyes, because photographs are translations. Cameras cannot see as deeply and uniquely as my own eyes can, and there is a danger that the poetry I am able to see will be missed if I rely on a photographer to "see" for me.

Habit is the muse. Just as with walking the dog, or baking bread, repeat action greases the wheels.

I never expect hours of uninterrupted concentration. Painting a picture is not the same as pouring concrete to make sidewalks, or building a deck, or fixing a car engine. I might have laser-beam focus for only 90 minute spurts, but that can add up to a finished picture over a week.

It can help to show others my works-in-progress, but I don't invite just anyone into my studio. I try to choose wisely, to protect my efforts.