A short time ago, I published the image of a painting in progress…a painting upon which I have been working for some considerable time. That painting is nearing completion, and upon completion I will most certainly publish the finished image with the promised accompanying comments. I have found, however, that such extended concentration on one object…meaning, the object of the painting and the object that is the painting…can wear. As much as I would like to not need some sense of resolution…some sense of joy in the process started and finished…some sense of fulfillment in the experience of the vision realized in the work…as much as I would like to be able to do without that, I find that a long, extended painting brings mental challenges beyond even the conceptual ones and the technical ones of a painting completed in a much shorter time.
The way that I imagine it is as follows. Imagine a juggler who has been forced, upon pain of death, never to allow the balls that he is juggling to hit the ground. Some evil wizard has sworn him to such an oath. Now, we all know that such a thing is impossible. Once he stops the motion the balls will fall and the wizard will come to collect on the oath. But the juggler must eat and sleep and partake of all the other bodily functions consigned to the human condition despite the oath placed upon him. This juggler, however, is extremely clever. He has found a way to suspend the balls in mid-air as if frozen by an act of his mind, so that he can step away when he needs to for a bit of a break. He cannot do it forever, nor would he want to. He is a juggler because he likes juggling, but he needs a break from the immediate act of juggling. And so, he holds the balls in a suspended arc just as if his hands were on each side ready to keep them going in their earthly orbit. That too costs him a great deal, but it is a cost that can be born while some of the other bills are paid…eating and sleep and the like.
Well, a long, extended painting is much like the problem faced by the juggler. Every night as the sun sets and my eyes tire and my attention span begins to wane I need a break. I only work when I am working optimally. Otherwise, my human weakness seeks to make compromises that will compromise the final painting. And yet, the painting is not done. I am not done thinking about what the painting needs when I am done being able to work on it for the day. The painting and the needs of the painting…the next step or how to resolve a particular issue…hang suspended in my head. I cannot allow it to drop. And that gets tiring.
So, as I have grown a bit in both experience and (a very little bit) in wisdom, I have found that taking a pause from the extended work for a short time to complete some smaller paintings that I can see through from start to finish rejuvenates my relationship to the extended work. That is what I have done in the small series of works below entitled “Sweet Nothings.” Enjoy!