“Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.”
― Stephen King
The last couple few weeks have been disastrous in the studio. Being in Atlanta for a week, constantly researching visual art grants and other means to pay the bills, along with the general sense of avoiding my studio has been wreaking havoc on my daily practice as a painter.
At this point I want to blow everything up that I’ve been working on and start all over. I want to take a machete and hack away at that the globs of oil that have only just begun to dry against their birch support. I’d love to throw a Molotov cocktail into my studio and let the whole thing burn, saving the ashes to create a reliquary of my life’s work of crap. (I can see the escalation of these events in my mind’s eye and it’s not pretty.)
Reminder to self: There is a separation between (a) how I feel and (b) what is truth.
In the thick of being in the “funk” I have to know (a) what’s real and true and (b) what is false and silly mind games.
What I want to do to my studio and some of the feelings of contempt and despair that I feel about the work in it are actually unhelpful in the process of being a studio artist. I’m wasting time and energy, even avoiding my studio and work based on mere feelings. The benefit of knowing that I’m feeling this way and am talking about my work in this capacity is that I’m seeing red flags in my painting practice. The feelings and mind movies of me sending in a helicopter to blow up my work may have gone to an extreme, but this critical lambasting can actually be turned into beneficial coaching.
For me, what’s true?
Where do I go from here?
(1) The Work: I’ve been procrastinating to get into the studio or avoiding it entirely. I have some issues in my paintings that I need to find resolutions for. Some of the compositions that I’m using seem to be too cramped, not leaving room for the viewer’s eye to move across the narrative. The figures tend to be rendered too tightly, too “pretty.” Color relationships aren’t meshing the way that I’d like them to. At times, I’m relying too heavily on images rather that on my own conception of the work.
(2) The Painter: I can paint. I have space to paint. I need to get my ass in the studio and paint instead of wanting to block that part of my life out. I have an amazing job and can do whatever I want to as a painter; at this point I’m only stifling myself. When I get frustrated with my painting practice, I need an outlet: writing and talking to Melissa (wife) is really helpful. Don’t ever give up. You have good days, bad days, and “why the hell am I doing this” days. Success as a painter is not determined by the price tag of your work. Make work and enjoy life, not make work to enjoy life. Don’t be a loner; everyone has blind spots. Get exposed to as much work in person as you can without your mind melting. If you can’t work big, work small. If you can’t paint, you can always draw. Never leave your house without a sketchbook or the the book you’re reading. You are your biggest distraction.
Truth should trump feelings. Yes, get your feelings out, but if you can’t identify the truth evident you’ll get stuck there, going nowhere fast. Feelings are indicators, pointing to things that are going wrong. Release them so that you can get to the heart of the issue. This life of the self employed artist is not so peachy keen, it’s hard, even grueling work and can leave you on your ass if you’re not willing to do your part. There are those day that you feel like you suck at what you, but you have got to get in the studio and do something. Like Stephen King, the famed author said, “Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.”