I have struggled this week in my studio. Things were smooth sailing when I decided to explore new territory. I have played and experimented with completely abstract works recently. My previous painting technique was to begin abstractly without any recognizable figures and then to add images, patterns, and motifs that I had drawn in my sketchbook. Images anchor me to something I can build on in the painting. The problem began when I started to become bored with my images. My paintings began to look contrived. I felt hollow as I looked at them.
I have been drawn into complex works of abstract expressionists at an even deeper level. The paintings are raw and alive. The images are immediate not planned. There is mystery and depth I would like to make in my work. Abstract expression is inside of me but it is a different way of working. Without imagery for an anchor or a step by step process there is just me and my instincts.
Ugly paintings are self-expression too and that is where fear comes into play. It is one thing to be vulnerable on a canvas when the goal of the painting is beauty. It is quite another to put yourself on the canvas only to discover it is displeasing. I am putting my struggle and my inability to execute what I imagine on the canvas. And there it is looking back at me in all its undesirability and mystery. It’s 100% my work that came 100% from me. Most people never acknowledge the displeasing parts of themselves let alone invite it in. I will tell you it is not pleasant. Most people want to know exactly how to do something before they do it. I am learning to accept all of me in the painting process and to invite the fear of failure.
In the pursuit of meaningful and beautiful paintings there is no avoiding the ugly ones that come in between. If I do not invite the fear and allow it a space I will never feel the freedom and delight of an authentic painting that is well executed. I am continually amazed at the parallels between painting and living.