Today I got frustrated.
My painting is inspired by things I see. It can be a photograph on the internet or a flower bed that I see when I’m out walking. Recently, I have become enchanted by the visual of all the old trees that line the street I take on my way home from work. There are limbs, heavy with leaves, hanging over the road, a seemingly endless path of changing shades of green. The contrast of the light and dark intrigues me and I was determined to capture the effect.
I’ve been working for a couple of weeks on a painting that was supposed to reflect those arches of trees. I painted and worked and re-painted and worked some more. While the resulting painting was nice, it didn’t look the way it looked in my head. So, I worked on the painting again today. I made some progress, but still no magic.
My painting projects are usually almost 100% pleasure, so it doesn’t feel right when a project starts to frustrate me. I could feel the frustration starting to rise so I decided I was going to play with the paint that was left on my palette. I had a canvas board that my oldest grandson had painted on when he came to the studio with me a few weeks ago. He is a talented artist, but his heart wasn’t in it that day when he tried to paint with his fingers like I do. There was little paint and even less effort on the board, so I decided I was going to take his intention and flesh it out with my left-over paint. The result was nice and I really liked it.
But there was still more paint on the palette. I didn’t feel like preserving the paint so I decided to put a few thoughts on a large canvas and use up the rest of the paint that way. For the first time, I started using the same technique I use on my mash-ups on a larger format. I just slapped paint on the canvas in random patterns and started blending.
I was smiling as I worked and I became completely absorbed in watching the paint mixing and moving on the canvas. The joy of feeling the paint change shape and color under my fingers kept me in the studio far longer than I intended. All thoughts of work and other obligations fled from my mind as I watched intrigued, as the paint flowed. I didn’t care how it turned out or if anyone else would like it. I painted for myself and for the sheer joy of it.
For me, this is what painting is all about. I like hearing people say nice things about my work. Shows are nice and sales are even nicer. But it’s the feeling of being in synch with the world while I paint that keeps me coming back. I don’t paint for the compliments or the shows or the sales. I paint because I love the work.
As I rushed to my day job, ( after I washed most of the paint off my face,) I thought about how great it felt doing that painting. I realized that I had lived a philosophical analogy. By letting go of a preconceived notion of what I should be doing or what a piece should look like, I painted one of the best pieces I’ve ever done.
That same philosophy is one we all recognize, but for me at least, frequently forget to pay attention to. It’s so easy to get caught up in the “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve,” mentality that we forget what it feels like to do something just because we love it.
Sometimes, we need to step back from the details and the plans and just dive in and play. Sometimes, we need to forget about the outcome and do something for the sheer joy of it. Sometimes, we have to let go of what other people may think and just do what feels right.
Tomorrow, I will play.