Being asked to write a guest blog for a fellow artist this week has led to some useful and surprising spin-offs. I have now:
Learned three new French verbs, dug a new herb bed in the garden, finished making a net underskirt, eaten homemade soup everyday for lunch, washed all the dog’s bedding and best of all, found my way back into the studio!
In the studio
This last achievement took some doing, my studio is A.K.A. the ‘Ice Palace’, it is an airy, light filled handsome room, with it’s high ceiling and marble fireplace; thin, glittering old glass in the long windows, overlooking the valley of the river Vienne, it is also glacial, colder by many degrees than outside and almost impossible to heat or insulate.
I am an artist with vests, thick cardigans, fingerless mits and sheepskin boots, it can be overcome and once you are painting all else is forgotten. So with a thousand words to write for this blog pushed to the top of my to do list I have headed back into the studio not just to potter about tidying brushes and prepping canvases but to paint, and it has been sheer joy.
The Painter Procrastinates
Why do artists procrastinate so? It isn’t that I don’t want to paint, an exhibition looms, my first in France (very exciting for me, the Rencontres des Artistes at Montmorillon), I have a deadline to meet, it is just so damned hard getting started if you stop for a moment. There are so many interesting distractions available, so many doubts to confront; will what is painted be good enough? Will anyone like it?
Perhaps it is the curse of anyone who works creatively, where does research end and procrastination begin. Writing about procrastination led to some time on- line that uncovered a superb animated film that was the graduation piece of Royal College of Art student Johnny Kelly in 2007 and from sixty years earlier a lovely quotation from Robert Benchley:
“…anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment”.
This gave me the idea to combat the problem of struggling to get to work in the studio by putting the writing ahead of the painting on the ‘to do’ list. It worked a treat. Procrastination isn’t laziness, more the skewing of priorities and time management. Once I had another deadline to meet I was quite happy to work on the less urgent one.
Swimming in the paint
Within a few hours, the paint has performed it’s magic, the more you do, the more you want to do, the better it gets. A little like swimming in cold water, once you get going it is fine. The only way to learn to make Art is to keep making art, and that is the purpose of making it. It is hardly a surprise that we all struggle at times, after all stepping into the Studio is always going into uncharted territory, you never really know how things will turn out, or how they will be received or even if they will get finished at all, one has to just enjoy the ride, focused only on the work itself, and learn to live with uncertainty. Almost the only thing one can really control is the materials you choose and I suppose this is why they sometimes become such a fixation, nearly every artist I know has way more ‘kit’ than they will ever use (me included).
The Pumpkin cure from representation to abstraction
Artists have used many different devices for getting going with their work. Sometimes I fill up sketch books with experiments and scribbles, many inspired by the views from the studio, the old stones and the water courses that cascade under the village, often it might be the vegetable gardens below the window and the produce from those gardens. When I got really stuck (and desperate for the solace of making art) I filled dozens of pages with portraits of a beautiful big pumpkin I had been given by a friend. Though my work is balanced across a fault line between abstraction and representation.
These things are jumping off points for my thoughts and may be unrecognisable when they become my imaginary landscapes, but studying the form, colours and textures, somehow they are absorbed into the paintings. The paintings will usually have an element of chance that I will set up to happen but not control, I need serendipity to be part of my work from an early stage, and this is how I begin.
Every time I stop painting for a few days, and I try never to let it be longer than that, mindful of the advice given to me by my tutor when I was in my first year at college to never stop it is so difficult to get started again (thank you Chris) I always feel better for getting back to work. I just need to keep going, putting one foot in front of the other, the journey is the thing, never mind the destination, it will take care of itself.
If you don’t have to paint…
The sculptor Stephen De Staebler suggested:
“Artists don’t get down to work until the pain of working is exceeded by the pain of not working”.
I would suggest that if you don’t feel the pain of not working then it is probably better to just find something easier to do, ‘Make your own bias binding’ anyone?
I hope you enjoyed reading Lorraine’s blog, if you did can you leave your comments please – ashar
to visit Lorraine’s web site and see her wonderful work …click here…