Monday, September 27, 2010


I had a productive day at the studio on Saturday. Five-plus hours of painting--that's a lot of painting, standing on concrete, leaning over a table to paint. (I frequently paint with my canvas on a table, rather than an easel.) 

Some days go easier than others. Thankfully, Saturday seemed to go rather smoothly. I finished a few smaller pieces and then moved on to this bigger work. It is actually two canvases--each 24x30 that will complete one piece.

I often think about the different stages in the creation of my paintings...and how the work and my feelings about the piece can change many times during the course of the painting.

The beginning stage includes the visualization of the piece. I often visualize a piece long before it comes to fruition. And many times those visions first come to me as I'm falling asleep at night. The beginning stage is very exciting...and filled with hope and optimism. 

Once I decide to start working on a new piece, the beginning phase moves into the physical creation of the piece--with the prep of the canvas. For me, that means applying gesso to the canvas and multiple layers of base colors. It might also include, as it did in this piece, applying gel mediums such as light molding paste to create texture.  During that work I am still visualizing how I see the piece evolving. As I apply the gesso and/or medium, I feel as if I'm "mapping" out the painting. It's like I'm trying to transfer my vision to the canvas as I apply the gesso with my brush.

At some point, you enter what I think of as the middle phase of the painting. For me, this is often the longest and most difficult phase of the painting. It's often when the work takes on it's own life ... and sometimes that doesn't always match up to your "vision". It's the phase where as an artist you have to struggle with letting the process unfold itself, while also still managing the technical end of creating the piece. 

It's also the phase where I often no longer "love" the piece and wonder if what I'm doing is going to really look any good. Sometimes it feels like labor, not joy.  Sometimes I will even put the piece aside...walk away for a bit to gain some perspective and a fresh set of eyes.

But sometimes, like Saturday, I keep working right through the doubts and trust the process. In fact, the more I trust the process, the smoother the whole thing seems to go. And that always feels a natural sort of high.

Which leads you, ultimately, to the final phase and the finished piece. Usually when I reach that point, my ambivalence about the piece has been replaced with, well, love. Ask an artist what their favorite piece is and they will often point out the last piece they finished. 

Not always. I'm learning sometimes to finish pieces that I'm not quite sure of, learn from them and take what I learn to the next piece. 

This piece is not yet finished. Getting there, but not quite. I hope to have it done before the Art Crawl in less than two weeks. 

Which means I'll be pushing through that middle phase this week.


Kelly said...

Well said! a great description of the creative process!

The Creative Beast said...

Hello! I found your post at teh Flying Lessons FB page and stopped by to visit and read about your process...

This is a great post. I'm not much of a painter, though I dabble, but collage art is my favorite medium. I can't say I go through an "ugly phase" while working sine I'm usually about playing with my materials.

I can say that I have occasionally been frustrated with painting from time to time when things didn't go as planned, but then it worked out better than my original imagination, so I say that my materials may not always cooperate with me but they often know better than I do about how to make my creation work the best!! ;)

dandelion dreamer said...

thanks for sharing your is fun to see how others works and what is going on in thier heads! Look forward to seeing the finished piece