As of recently, I have found working from life to be vital and nourishing in a way I have not previously experienced in my studio practice. Standing there, looking at a plant and making marks in response to it, I am just so . . . happy . . . that it occurred to me that maybe this was the perfect solution to my painting woes, a way of working that finally lets me fall in love with my own process after all these years, and trust in it. Because in painting this way, making “mistakes,” getting it “wrong” at first is not merely to be tolerated and swiftly covered up, but inevitable, ineluctable, deeply necessary: it is the record of the process that itself becomes the finished work, not mere preparation lying unseen underneath some ultimately achieved surface. Things are corrected, adjusted, moved multiple times, even obliterated, but with the intuition that the impossibility of pinning down matter in an endlessly vibrating world is somehow integral to the attempt to do so nevertheless. (Plants, always moving slightly in relation to the light make particularly good subjects for experiencing this.)
With this attitude, working from life feels like the cure for the malady of experiencing every painting in progress as a potential monument to my own inadequacy. For the problem of hating my work while it was in progress, of feeling almost ashamed of its unfinished state, impatient that it didn’t look the way I wanted it too yet (and anxious that it never would, no matter how hard I tried). A remedy for the notion of absolute truth, a tyrant since childhood, since, if nothing else, painting from observation makes nothing plainer than the absolute contingency of everything in relation to everything else.