Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Encouragement of Past Achievements

     In the previous post, I mentioned having hit a fallow time in my painting. Browsing images of some of my past paintings was helpful--especially the works that were most difficult to complete. The dune bridge piece pictured here was very stubborn and resisted my efforts to produce a harmonious composition for some time. Looking at it now and recalling the many wrong turns I took in painting "Spring Breeze" reminded me of the wisdom of the saying "this too shall pass". I have felt reluctant to paint, unproductive, and just plain unable before. So, feeling that way should not be scary now and certainly is no excuse for hopelessness. 

     Linda Blondheim's e-critique service helped me rescue this piece from what seemed like an impossible mess. Some of the fixes she suggested did not work; others were ideal. Some of the adjustments I tried on my own were helpful; others were disastrous. But, with persistence, the sort of painting I envisioned creating finally emerged. In the visual arts, some revisions can't be evaluated until you see them in relation to everything else in the composition. Fortunately,  acrylic paints permit painting out unsatisfactory areas and covering them with new shapes, colors, and forms. I would be lost without the possibility of "do-overs".

     The main problem with what you might call the "first draft" was a lack of balance, I think. Keeping the viewer returning to a central focal point gives a work its power, and the wildflowers competed with the foot bridge for awhile. Also, being too literal about the slope of the dunes I had photographed for reference left me with too little variation in the line of the dunes. Since the horizon is inescapably straight, I needed to exaggerate the height of the left side dune and add more undulations to the dune outline (without overdoing it) as a contrast to that straight line. One trick I used to "try on" various dune lines was to cut a paper outline and tape it over the piece--then a different outline, etc., until it looked about right. 

     So, looking back on creative challenges I have faced and coped with in the past helped me get past the funky time and get back to work. "Spring Breeze" and other works remind me of the inevitable ups and downs of the creative process. This is not the first time I have felt as though I have forgotten how to paint, nor will it be the last time. All I need to remember is that the frustration has always been a temporary speed bump and that with faith and patience, the joy of creating will return.
Question of the day: Can you recall a troublesome season you experienced that you were able to work through in time? Can you draw strength from those memories to help you face new challenges?


  1. At the risk of sounding negative, I would have to say that most of my seasons have troublesome in them. Constant worry overshadows everything for me. You would think a soul in angst would be able to spew forth on a canvas. Not so. Oh to be able to just let go once in awhile!

    Mary, you have forgotten more than I will ever know when it comes to art. To hear you use the word "unable" almost makes me laugh, not to make light of your feelings. Your work is always just gorgeous.

  2. Sherry, you are too kind; believe me, there has been a steep learning curve. Maybe I should post more of my partly done paintings to demonstrate how bad they can look :>). Also, I am very fortunate to have had some good teachers, especially my very best teacher, mentor, and friend, Linda Blondheim. Some of the roadblocks may well have been permanent barriers without her helpful guidance. You are a brave, talented, and creative woman, Sherry--I also wish for you that it were easier for you to just let go and to be less self-critical. Maybe when you get to be as old as I am :>) !