There is a stage every painting I create goes through at the very beginning that I fall in love with almost every time. It’s not the polished end-game, it’s the initial quick sketch with the first few thin washes of color applied. There is something about that first reaction to the scene before me that happens almost by itself. It is purely joyful to me. After that stage I usually begin the arduous stage of building, building, building layer upon layer of heavier and heavier paint, just pushing, pushing until the painting finally looks like “my work” whatever the hell that is supposed to be… all I know is that it nearly sucks the life out of everything. Oh, I like the finished results in the end, but the whole thing is a just chore to get to that place. The painting becomes only about the end result and the process become mechanical, and contains very little mystery to me after that initial sketch stage.
For the last several years I’ve been grinding against this process, pushing painting after painting through the corridors of strained conformity to an expected standard of completion.
Until this one.
At Wine by the Sea this year I arrived fresh off a bender of live painting all weekend at the Redwood Coast Music Festival, sneaking in a quick break from painting there to come out to this wonderful event and… paint some more. With more live music! I am seriously the most spoiled artist in the world sometimes. After my initial sketch was laid out (with all the joy I previously mentioned) I went on a beer run (about 12 steps from my easel) and when I returned I saw the sketch just sitting there in its joyful glory, not asking for anything of me. This is awkward. I tried to tell it that I was at an event, this was a fundraiser, and I was expected to deliver something more, but this fun little sketch was a stubborn bugger, just sitting there all beautiful and in need of nothing. Reminded me of my wife. I realize this is not an argument I can win. In fact it’s probably not one I should even be having.
So I step away and discuss the matter with some lovely guests of the event, who showed themselves loyal friends and took my side in the matter, and yet… there she was, smiling in the misty breeze, entirely sure of herself. Dang. How can she do this to me? As I continued mulling over my problems to friends and strangers alike, something unusual happened. I heard myself. And upon hearing myself deliberating whether to push this painting that I love into becoming something it isn’t (for many great reasons, mind you), I couldn’t help but to see the obvious. There isn’t an artist in the world that I would advise continuing to push their work past it’s joyful place for the sake of living up to some external standard- real or imagined. No way.
You must listen to your work.
(and your wife)
And honor them both.
So that is what I chose.