There are a good number of paintings I have been talking myself out of making. Why? Not sure, but it may be because at some level I have bought into the notion that I must not do what I want to do. Anyway, there are several such paintings in limbo. Because I have twice allowed myself as a young man to be persuaded by self-appointed superior artists to completely change my direction, and now find myself still susceptible to the least comment, positive or negative, I have decided, with the help of my true superior Edward Povey, to work in seclusion. This makes it really easy to work on anything, because nobody is ever going to see anything—not for a while, anyway. Edward thinks he is going to see them, but ha ha.
So far this new strategy has been working well. I have found it much easier to start paintings and to work them in a manner which would have been unfathomable in the recent past. It’s not a perfect solution; I do still have to encourage myself in order to get started, but I have managed to execute a handful of paintings that have turned out to have higher meaning for me. My excitement in painting those harks back to the old days when painting was new and not yet fraught with the threat of put-downs.
Two of these paintings reach a level above any I have attained before. The difference between these works and those previous is not earth-shattering at all; it may be barely visible to most people. To me the evolution is profound.
And now comes the hard part. A negative voice inside me suggests, “These aren’t so great. They are not groundbreaking at all. You could see work of this stature in a magazine illustration.”
That may be true, I admit, and yet there have been some pretty good magazine illustrations. And besides, so what? I am improving, and in a direction that few illustrations go. And you could say of a heck of a lot of good paintings that they would make good magazine illustrations.
And now the greatest difficulty. That painting, my best ever, intimidates me. At the moment I have no better ideas than that one. Knowing that I will not reach that level again for a while (though I do believe I surely will eventually), makes it almost impossible to start a new painting. And if you are a painter or critic who wants to say to me, “Just do it anyway,” I don’t need to hear that just now. I do not accept much of the nonsense spouted these days about how people should paint—but that’s for another blog entry.
So let me tell you, it took a long time and a great deal of self-persuasion to undertake my next painting. I am sort of happy to announce that I did manage to do so, with tremendous difficulty, and that the new painting is finished and sitting for my viewing in the studio. Sort of happy because, no, this is not the romantic happy ending (and I knew it would not be) of the painter discovering that his next undertaking was outrageously successful, despite his pessimism. I knew this painting would not be my very best again, and it isn't. It does not have the conception or meaning that its predecessor has. But still it's pretty good. These paintings are getting better all the time.
And in one very important respect this painting is a great success, because I did it. I overpowered my negative concerns and decided to paint it just to see what this one would look like. That should make the next one easier to take up.