The new year makes us think about new beginnings. The summer before last we had very little rain but very impressive clouds. I took a lot of pictures and eventually began to think about painting these clouds. This raised a lot of concerns for me. My work is abstract, not representational, my work was non-objective for years. Non objective slowly transformed itself into work that was informed by the visual stimuli in the world around me. I internalized and distilled visual stimuli and painted to discover what the synthesis of the experiences would produce. But while the paintings were informed by the world around me they remained abstract. I continued to take photos but did not allow myself to paint for a long long time. Then I gave myself permission to do a cloud painting, however I set myself certain constraints; I switched from canvas to paper and limited the size to 9 x 12 "or 12 x 16" instead of 30 x 40" or 30 x 48". This is the first piece. Artists can think their way into a condition that is a paralysis, a kind of prison of self limitation that is insidious and cruel. I have a friend whose work I very much admire, her paintings are atmospheric. She recently created a painting that has an un-blended area that almost resembles a cloud. It is a very strong painting. She is worrying herself and the painting, uncertain because it is unfamiliar territory I am writing about artists here, but we all do it. The hamster spins on his little wheel in our heads, we worry about what might happen, we are overcritical of ourselves, we repeat over and over some scene or conversation that did not go the way we wanted it to. That constant self dialogue; judging who we are in comparison to others, or who we should be, or how we should act, results in paralysis. We can find no peace and we can make no progress. We talk ourselves out of taking that next step, leaving our job, starting a relationship, whatever that next step might be. There can be no relief from the hypothetical scenarios our minds create. Unless we just stop. Decide to ignore the chatter, muster our courage and jump. Meditation helps with this. When you focus on your breath and quiet your mind even if it is only for a minute or a second, you get relief and can hit the reset button. Having given myself permission to explore, I did. I was offered an opportunity to exhibit in a gallery, but they wanted canvases, so I switched back to canvas. Some paintings I liked better than others. When I don't like something about a painting, the next one leaves behind the aspects I did not like and examines more deeply that aspects I did like. Eventually I noticed that these paintings are more similar to the abstract work I felt I was turning from than I ever could have anticipated. Even though I start with an idea of how the painting will turn out, I learn as I go where the painting wants to go. I still work with formal aspects of painting, I leave some areas with no paint reaffirming the surface I am working on and build up texture in other areas. I still concern myself with line, shape and the interaction of colors, all while painting sky, atmosphere and yes clouds. Now I see that this is all work. I do not know where it will lead. But that does not matter. What matters is I am learning and exploring and creating some art work. And when the voice inside my head starts to criticize, I leave that painting alone and try to come back another day with fresh eyes and a quieter mind.