How I Got My Groove Back

It seems as though I have a lot to say on the difficulties of getting myself to paint. One might be tempted to ask why on earth I do it if it’s so agonizing. After all, no one’s got a gun to my head. To which I reply, no, not one you can see. Despite the inevitability of my return to painting, time and time again I will put it off because of nerves. I’ll think about it constantly, staring at whatever sits unfinished on the easel, spending much more energy avoiding the act than it would take to engage. The resistance is that strong.

And why is it that strong? I don’t know for certain, but this is my best guess: the resistance is strong because in painting there is nowhere to hide, no false identities with which to comfort and busy myself, no stories to tell myself. It is a complete immersion in the sensory experience of the world, wonderful because of that, and terrifying because of that.

abstract painting of a sunset

Sky Study (Abstract), Last Light, 2013. I include this not because it is a successful painting (it’s not, it’s a mess), but because it was done on that borderland between the safey-safe place and the free fall. I have great love for the paintings I do from that place. They’re the signposts that welcome me home.

When I begin again after time away, I always begin with one of two approaches: the first is by holding myself in, keeping my toes well out of the water and trying, very likely, to re-create an earlier success. The second is to let myself free fall into it, to accept that my ideas will likely be obliterated, followed quickly by my sense of self, and that this will be a very good thing. The first method resembles a small child in unfamiliar circumstances clutching their favourite blankie. It results in truly regrettable paintingsĀ  for the simple reason that whatever earlier success I might have had was not achieved by wrapping myself in a blankie, but through the free fall method. I have wasted miles of canvas and gallons of paint on blankie-painting.

In the state of procrastination, there is tipping point when the tension of not paintings finally exceeds the tension of painting. Then I can put down my very important sweeping, those taxes I’m being so responsible in tackling head on, and the garden/pet/cookie that too often torpedo my better instincts. And what lies beyond that is pure joy.

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