Slow painting

As many of you will remember, at this time last year I was gearing up to paint 103 paintings in 103 days. As I have described the exercise at length here and on social media, I won’t go into it too much now, except to say that I have decided not to do it again this year, and here’s why:

I learned a lot from making that many paintings. I learned about my own habits, I learned to clean up my composition, I learned to prioritize the parts of the pieces that mattered over the parts that didn’t. And round about painting number 40, I stopped learning, and I just kept painting. Which is not to say it was a futile exercise; all practice is good practice, and let’s face it, all money is good money when you’re trying to make a go of it as an artist, and particularly when you have dependents. And I was grieving and I needed to work. It was how I kept myself alive. I needed a mission, I gave myself one, I accomplished my goal and I am glad.

I have learned some other things this year, and my art making is changing, as it must always do, because making art is a living process and all living things must change. I have been thinking about slow painting; about making work that demands time and attention, not just to the image but to the idea of the image. I have been thinking about making work that talks about the world that exists in parallel with mine, ours, we humans, the world of fish and soil and certain kinds of light that don’t require or acknowledge me but which somehow are more real to me than anything. I am trying to find a language. The fact that my attempt to articulate it here is so feeble should indicate how difficult it is to undertake such  project in a way that is meaningful to me and which I can perhaps one day describe without sounding like a total flake.  We’ll see. At any rate, I am making these paintings that are taking a lot of time and focus, and if I make other work I think I will distract myself from the place I need to inhabit right now. And it’s hard.

I am accustomed to working fast. When my kids were little, I used to set the timer on the microwave for ten minute intervals and I would paint in these hurried bursts, and in that way I built a practice. My habit is still to paint as if my easel were on fire; I want things done, I want to get to the next and the next. I think that’s useful energy and it serves me well and it’s not that I want to lose that; it’s that I think it’s time I learned a little patience (I can hear my dead mother laughing). I think that in the same way I am trying to learn to listen to the world, I need to try to listen to my work.

So that is what I am going to do.

Stay tuned.


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