Whenever time stalls, due to lack of good light, being out of something, just being at a stopping point for the day, or having to wait for the next fleeting idea, I’m reminded of a line from “Thumb Wars.” “Waiting to be killed, waiting to be killed…” That’s how it feels to have work that’s not finished yet!
With so much going on this year, it’s easy to start to feel like I’m not being productive enough. Then I put a few pieces on my table that are nearly done for that day and I see that I have in fact been pretty productive. Some artists work in spurts; they get an idea and paint madly for awhile, then need a break. If pieces are small, it can feel like it’s not going to cover much wall space, but a few big pieces make up for it.
Working spontaneously and not over thinking things is really important to the way I work. Thoughts of being unproductive, or forcing myself to work on something, just don’t result in more, or better, work. Often, such forced sessions end with me gessoing over the day’s work! The energy that makes me like how a piece is going can’t be forced. If it’s going to work out I generally know it pretty soon into the piece. I will only give it another chance if there’s significant investment in it, or still has some part I do like. Later, a flash of insight may come to me. Or maybe later I’ll get a better idea for the one that got gessoed over, and redo it better.
I marvel at artists who plan everything and then carry it out exactly. While I can work from a plan somewhat, it takes me longer, and I have to let it take on a life of its own if it seems to want to. I draw a lot, and sometimes translating a sketch to a painting makes me feel I lost some of the spontaneity that made me like the drawing. In that case it’s important not to go too closely by the sketch, but to let the painting come into its own. It’s rare I actually transfer a sketch directly onto a canvas, though sometimes I will if it’s really important to keep it from escaping the bounds of the canvas, as I have a tendency to make things get too big and go off the edge more than I wanted.
How do you work? Do you just dig in, or do you plan, or some combination? Some method that isn’t covered by those two generalities?