I often wonder about the the creative process. and how best to optimise my working methods. I have tried to identify the most favourable environmental conditions – the best breakfast , the most suitable background music- and the most effective working practices; but the abandoned and incomplete canvases scattered around my studio are testament to the fact that my methods are neither efficient nor productive.
At any one time, I will usually be working on two or three paintings, and will have at least a dozen half-finished paintings leaning against the walls. What happens is that I have no problems working through the preliminary stages – finalising the composition and setting the tonal values – and then I hit a brick wall. I will set the painting up on the easel as usual, but for some reason my mind will go blank. No amount of staring, or not staring, drinking tea or walking the dog will remedy the situation. I will have no ideas about where to start working on the painting, and it will look to me like the work of another artist. No matter what I do, I can’t avoid this artist’s block. Instead, I just have to regard it as another stage in the creative process – a time for pause, for reflection.
The three paintings that I am working on now are a perfect illustration of how this problem affects my execution of a painting. Painting 1 is my most recent canvas. It’s based on drawings and photos from a sitting some nine months ago. I was pleased with how the painting was developing. I’m reasonably happy with the composition, and I think the poses are interesting to paint. However, when I sat it on my easel yesterday, I felt nothing. I felt no connection with this painting, and was at a loss about where to go with it. It’s facing the wall now. I will take a look at it in a month, and hope I will see it differently.
My time working on painting 2 has been a long hard slog. From a promising start, when I felt very enthusiastic about the poses and composition, I managed to spoil the painting with the finishing glazes. I ended up removing the offending glazes and sanding down the paint surface in order to start afresh. I’m now in the process of applying those final glazes again, but I’m happier with the effect this time around.
Painting 3 is a puzzle. It had become quite tedious working on the figures, and I was very unhappy with the composition. I abandoned this painting months ago, seeing no redeeming features in it. When I stumbled upon it yesterday, whilst looking for another painting, I saw it with fresh eyes, and a genuine enthusiasm. I like the poses, and can’t wait to start working on it again.
Producing a painting, recreating one’s vision upon the canvas, can be a difficult process, involving a real battle with the medium. Although often frustrating, these same challenges are the main attraction of painting. If it were easy and predictable, I don’t think I would want to do it every day.