Day after day I stand at my easel painting the paintings that must be painted. I also stand before a north-facing window 8 feet high by 10 feet wide that allows light into the studio. To rest my eyes from the intensive, close-proximity work of the painting I gaze through that window so as to allow my eyes to refocus on the surrounding environment at different distances and depths, and in so doing I am a constant observer of that environment. One prevailing realization has come to mind as a result. There is a relentless, brutal, emotionless character to the cycle of nature. Day follows mercilessly after day…season after season. The maple in my backyard sheds its canopy of leaves and grows it back and sheds many thousands of spinners only to have none of its progeny develop. Wash…rinse…repeat.
Why do I mention all this now. Yesterday I finished a painting that had been the object of my attention for 3/4 of a year. Today, I observed the Lord’s Day. Tomorrow, I will stand in front of an empty canvas with all the dread that this represents, and I will be asked by the creative urge to begin again…to conceive and create anew…from nothing bringing forth something. And that urge cares not that I just finished another painting and feel the need to refresh the reservoir of possibilities…that I don’t have another idea worth 9 months of effort. It demands like hunger demands or thirst.
So, tomorrow I begin again.
“Jesus therefore, when he had taken the vinegar, said: It is finished, and bowing his head, he gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30)
Before I wanted to paint I wanted to write. Though I paint, I find that I still want to write. But I have found that my natural inclination…beyond my will to be or do…inclines me to paint. And I need to paint everyday, and I do paint everyday or nearly everyday. It is a pressure that pushes and pushes and pushes unrelentingly. What I have found with writing is that I relate to the process and the mental structures and creative impulses much differently. There is certainly an ebb and flow, and the more that I push against my particular relationship to it, the more that I sense frustration and futility in my relationship to the process, whereas with painting the pushing is never against the process but is inherent to the process. So, as I get a bit older and my understanding of myself increases ever so slightly, I have found that I am comfortable with letting go…of riding the ebb and flow…in the realm of writing.
And so, I have not written in a couple of months, and I have not forced myself to write for the sake of keeping a continuous and regular journal of my experiences. In the intervening time, I have been working on the completion of the Supergirl costume that I started in February of 2012. I have taken some time to work on a couple of smaller projects, but this painting has taken nearly 9 months to complete. I think that the writing stopped because all the energy and focus went not necessarily into the painting as I was able to paint and write when I first initiated “Anthony of Akron.” What took the energy was the change of mental process that started to occur when I began to realize that I was nearing the end of a project into which I had invested so much of my energy and time.
I found that I not only had to spend the normal energy to execute the work going forward, but I also had to hold back the inclination to rush ahead and finish it. I had to suppress the desire to finish it for the simple sake of finishing it…of finally being done. I had to slow down even more to keep the same level of execution and sense of beauty in execution as my inner impulsiveness was telling me to be done with it. As I pushed myself forward I had to restrain myself. Add to that the simple fact that the more time I spent meant the less my time would be worth should the painting sell. To make a living at this game requires either a great deal of output with corresponding sales at certain price points or a very high price on each individual piece. I know that I will never realize for this painting the money that I need to have made it a fiscally wise decision to embark on its execution over such an extended period of time. Financially, the painting makes no sense. But, I didn’t start it as a financial venture. I started it as an artistic venture with the hope that it would also have some financial component. And so the governing principle of action was the nature of the painting and not the utility of the painting as a financial vehicle. Once the nature of the painting is fully realized, then it can become a financial vehicle as it exists with complete integrity as a created entity.
So, in summary, I didn’t have the energy or the inclination to write as the final stages of the costume painting…(working title: “Then…and never again…and always”) required twice as much energy as it neared its completion as it did at its inception. And I learned a lot about myself…about myself as a maker and about the very nature of the process of making and about my relationship to the different types of making. Now, I just cross my fingers and hope the damn thing sells so I can go ahead and do more stupid things.