at 53, artist learns the same old stuff again

Remember how jazzed up I was about going in a whole new wallpaper pattern direction on Monday? I got going on colorizing my wallpaper drawing and before you know it I got a case of “I can make a big statement about life and the world with this… on canvas!”

It’s that over-confident artist-blindness that happens to me sometimes. Not all the time, but significantly enough for me to know that I have to watch out for it. During artist-blindness, I completely disregarded years of painting work and associated learning what I’m all about as a result.  Bonus: all of the past work and learning shows itself in my work now. This includes all of the hair-pulling about letting go of control and letting things happen in the moment, or by accident. All that hair-pulling and accidental happening resulted in some good, fresh work that is very “me.” I am an immediate, in-the-now person who remembers the joy of watching a finger painting happen under my hands 50 years ago, and who continually strives to get that essence into my work today.

So why would I think that a new direction, which involves painting the same thing over and over the same way with very small brushes, would somehow be the latest grand statement that I could make as an artist?

I think the answer is that we all like to explore, and go out on tangents. That’s one of the reasons I keep a visual journal. Once in a while, the tangent doesn’t end on the journal page. It screams and stomps around until it can have its own canvas. The result? Well, in this case it was a small canvas with interwoven shapes that looked a little bit like rows of onions. Very flat onions, in grays, muted yellows, and greens.

It’s not that tangents are a bad thing. They’re especially good in a journal, where you can use them to inform your person-ness, or artist-ness. On some rare occasions, tangents help turn corners and start new things that are really great.

Today, my tangent got out of the sketch diary, and just now (about an hour ago) got painted over on the canvas. Maybe it was the two cups of French roast coffee I had Monday morning as I started working in my journal? Hmmm… I didn’t even finish colorizing the page before I leaped up with a painting in my head (first neglected warning sign… the preconceived painting). Here’s the journal page, in its current state. I’ll revisit it to let it be a symbol of the lesson learned, but probably not to paint in any more color areas.

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