From my blog, see more here
I have a complicated relationship to my work, and reading some comments made by other artists it seems to be a pretty common phenomenon. I would be happy to hear your feedback if you go through the same reactions or if you have a totally different way of seeing things.
Before we even met
It is starting even before I start painting, sometimes I have a precise idea of what the finishes result should look like, sometimes I just let the painting do its own thing without really knowing what will be the end result.
It turns out that, same as for a lot of things in life, the more I get hype and have high expectations before starting, the more easily I get disappointed with the finished result.
I recently was very excited about a new mixed media piece, so much that I was thinking about it before sleeping, I suspect I even had dreams about it, and when it was completed I couldn’t help being a little bit disappointed, ” that’s it ? , all this hype and this is it?”
When the painting is being made
I noticed some paintings are almost painting themselves, everything seems easy, all the steps following each other easily in a nice flowing rhythm, no fight, no hesitation, no pulling hair, a bliss… Then there is the other kind, some paintings are just a struggle from beginning to end, they nearly escape the garbage bin a few times in the process, there are lots of hesitations, nothing seems certain…
The amazing thing to me is that this process, as easy or difficult as it could be is not an indication of the painting’s future. Sometimes I end up not liking a painting that was easy to make and just love very much the one that was a struggle and sometimes it is the opposite.
Some other thing I noticed is that almost all my paintings seem to go through an awkward phase, I call it ” the painting teenage phase”, there is almost always a moment when I think “this is not going to work between you an me, painting”.
Usually I continue working on it, without much hope of making something I like, and perhaps it is this letting go of any expectation that allows the painting to come back to life. It almost always end up going through this awkward phase looking better.
When the painting is done
The complicated relationship doesn’t stop here, when the painting is finished, varnished, on a wall or in storage I will change my mind often about what paintings I like and what paintings I used to like but do not like anymore.
Sometimes after finishing a piece,I can look at it but not see anything anymore, I can’t even say if I am happy with the result or not, I am too close to it to be subjective.
Then I leave it in a place of my house where I can see it by surprise, to get back that “new eye”. When you look at something for too long you end up not seeing anything. A good trick is to look at the finished painting in a mirror or to take a picture and look at it at a different scale, all this giving a new perspective on the work.
I made a parallel between painting and music, when you listen for the first time to an album, the songs that are the most catchy and that you like right away are also the ones you will get tired of most easily, some songs need a few listening times to enjoy, you need to get used to them and learn to appreciate them. But those are the songs you will like for a longer time. It is the same with paintings, I found that sometimes you need more time to appreciate a painting, but that might be a painting you will enjoy for a longer time.
Something happens too, when you are painting , you are focusing on details, and it seems that what you think you could have done better is the only thing that you see and by consequence that everybody else will see.
It turns out someone with a new, fresh eye might not see what you think is the most obvious characteristic of the painting. I often test my new paintings with a friend asking her ” Do you see something that bothers you on this painting, if you were to change one thing, what would it be ?” and then it turns out what she would change is never a thing that bothers me, or THE thing that I think went wrong. Even more, when I tell her what was bothering me, she is often surprised.
Sometimes I am focusing so much on what went wrong that I have to fight really hard an urge to burn the painting, step on it, cut it in little pieces…throw it in the garbage if I feel less dramatic.
Then I use the technique of the “magic drawer”, I can’t remember where I read that expression, but it is exactly how it works. You place the painting you don’t like in a drawer or somewhere you don’t see it for a few weeks or months and then you get it out. Magically, very often, you start to like that painting again, as djones was saying on Red Bubble in response to one of my comments on his gorgeous paintings ( one that he didn’t seem to like just after making it) : “distance is a great healer” (http://www.redbubble.com/people/djones)
Then also they are the painting s that you don’t like just after painting and that you will never like because nobody has a 100% success rate. The failed paintings are a good opportunity to learn what went wrong though, and they might teach us more than the successful ones, and anyway I see them as a sign of progression and taking risk, because if you are scared of failure you might end up painting the same painting over and over, and who wants only routine in a relationship?