Last week, I started work on a still-life of the stolen apples, and stopped after several hours, in frustration. The set up just wasn’t quite right, the composition did not feel inevitable, and most importantly, I didn’t have that poised but relaxed feeling in my belly telling me that all was well, that I had taken enough care in my preparations, and could trust in my own observations to carry me through the process ahead. Is it the beginning of self-knowledge/studio wisdom to actually stop myself before I’ve gone too far? To notice when things just don’t feel right, and actually acknowledge it, rather than repressing the information & carrying on, hoping to wrestle success out of the materials? To pull back, reassess, and start over? My self-flagellating angel says that it might be, BUT, if I were really smart, I wouldn’t have even started until everything, inside and out, was in its place.
I basically knew that I wasn’t quite ready to put brush to canvas, but was impatient to get going – in part because the apples are getting soft, despite being kept in the fridge – and in part because, I get so anxious about how long everything takes. About not having enough finished work with which to present myself to the world. About not being good enough/smart enough/adept enough to finish things faster (or self-possessed enough to be unworried about how long everything actually does take). And despite myself, and, I think, worst of all, I feel a little guilty about painting fruit, like – oh, this isn’t a SERIOUS painting, cool young contemporary artists don’t paint APPLES, so just hurry up and get this little self-indulgence over with so you can back to some real work, work to get noticed with. It is a small but malign voice lurking in my stomach that says these things. I know that whatever an artist decides to pay real attention to is worthy of that attention. And yet I am still undermined.
If you are paying attention, things will tell you when they are ready. Subtle forces align, and when you are attuned to them, the work flows. Forcing things which have not yet coalesced into vision, plunging in and hoping despite experience to the contrary that this time, I’ll figure everything out as I go along, has never yet resulted in a happy working experience for me, the kind when I am standing quite still, and yet vibrating with energies.
In my heart of hearts, I always know when a painting is going to go well. A kind of vision of the painting as it could be arises in my mind’s eye, not in specificity but in spirit. And I have to keep learning to wait for it.