The other day I was on a mission to try and save the painting I was working on. It was a painful struggle all day. I even began questioning why I was painting at all. I wasn’t particularly enjoying myself, the results were not satisfying, I would never be a great artist, why, why, why? But if nothing else I’ve learned two things in life, asking questions leads to discovery, and to become better at something you need to do it.
The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize -Robert Hughes
The very recently deceased Robert Hughes was someone I admired, not only because he was able to see things uniquely and deeply, but because he called a spade a bloody shovel, which at times got him into controversy. He was not a perfect man and was the first to admit it, but he enlightened us and made us think, and he really, really enjoyed and connected with his life.
So what if you don’t want to be recipient of the consolation prize? What then? If you overcome the self doubt and continue to work… why?
I remembered a book I bought last year about an artist named Vuillard. Something drew me to his work, what was it? There was one of those pesky questions again. But I had the feeling if I could answer that it would be helpful. For a while I thumbed through, looking for what, I didn’t know. And then it struck me, it was the paint itself that was the problem with my own work. Recently I had seen a documentary that discussed a belief held by many artists, the paint itself speaks, just as the subject matter or composition does. I needed to apply paint that would compliment the composition, and the paint itself needed to speak clearly. I had an inkling of how it needed to work, but not quite the vision. And then I saw it, the painting that spoke to me. I hustled back into the studio in the late afternoon and rubbed away the earlier day’s work, and started applying the paint with revised awareness. Too tired to enjoy finishing the painting that day, I had things on track for the next session. I’ve discovered that I enjoy savouring a new idea for execution until I am rested and fresh, so I left it for another time.
It was a happy evening, feeling I had broken through yet another small challenge and still, I had no idea why it was important to me to keep going. I suppose there is always that quiet little hope that one will create a small gem!!
A terrible night’s sleep followed. But the exciting challenge that lay before me was enough to get me out of bed next morning with some enthusiasm. I heated my little moka pot of coffee and savoured the aroma, as I always do. “Wake up and smell the coffee!” a teacher friend of mine used to say.
Steaming cup beside me at the computer, I sat down to check email and there, the Universe spoke to me through one…
“To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.’ -Kurt Vonnegut
Who am I to argue with Vonnegut? Rhetorical question… thank you.