The Power of Letting Go
I completed this painting almost two years ago. While it was a fantastic study on doing a large portrait-type painting and I liked the story behind it, I never loved it. So it never got varnished or signed and I kept it in a pile of paintings where these go to live: not for sale, not sure what to do.
As part of this season’s massive paint-overs, I finally decided it was time to let this one go and be reborn as something else. Some paintings get painted over without a second thought; this one was a little trickier to let go of. There were textural and color elements, the details that are hard to see in this photo, that I really liked. But the energy was flat and off to me so…deep breath and courage…I picked up the gesso.
In the photo above you can see the first round of deconstruction. Some paintings get a total white-out, where nothing of the original is left. I took a different direction with this one. As you can probably see, her facial features are still vaguely present. I spent some (okay, a lot) time fooling around, attempting to reconstruct her face in this same compositional structure. I was feeling more and more frustrated and like I needed to take a bigger risk. But it took me some time to get past this stage!
There are so many elements that go into painting and art when it is how you earn your daily bread. The need to finish things to sell. Am I being true to myself as an artist or am I trying to please an audience? Should I just call this done and move on with the damn thing? This balance between always wanting to push myself into new territory, explore what is inspiring me (because this is just who I am) and these practical considerations has been elusive. I know I am not alone in this; artists who sell their work walk this line in all sorts of ways.
Even more foundational though; this impulse in my heart to get at the heart of something. Take more risks, find more liberation and love in my work. Incorporating what I am aching for as a creative being and getting it onto the canvas: that takes the time that it takes.
So I learn to slow down, trust the process, and try to draw the dividing line between business and art. I tell the artists who study with me ‘no business thoughts when you have a paintbrush in your hand’. They stifle creative impulses and usually lead to predictable results that don’t make me happy.
So, yeah…finally there was this big jump and change in direction. This final letting go of the original portrait, concept, and composition, created an opening that had far more energy and aliveness for me. Figures are still a challenge, so this took some time to work out and as you’ll see the composition will take one more final shift before I ended up calling it finished. But that time spent felt engaging and challenging vs attempting to repeat something from the past. I was so excited to get to the studio, find my way forward, and am reminded that risks and leaps are (almost) always worth it.