What art offers is space – a certain breathing room for the spirit. John Updike
In last week’s blog, I discussed the circumstances that brought me to the practice of painting daily, This week I will begin to post the work done in groupings that make sense to me. In this blog post, I'll focus on art work produced between 6/22 and 6/30. I started off full of determination to overcome the circumstances that seemed insurmountable. I had limited work periods due to the recurring pain and the lack of stamina and as my physical mobility was all but nonexistent, there was an inability to stand or move around. My life of activity had been suddenly transformed into a life of waiting in place. I also had material constraints: Arches oil paper measuring 12 x 18", palette knives, and oil paints and I was limited to colors available in my "portable studio" bag, Initially, my intention was to work daily, not necessarily to produce one completed work per day. This first piece took 3 work periods to compete. I worked in layers of color, as is my normal practice, and I worked as best I could, distracting myself from the pain.
.The pain passes, but the beauty remains. Pierre-Auguste Renoir
The painting below was completed in the same day it was begun. I was not aiming at being productive per se, I was working from a place of undeniable vulnerability, working with the materials at hand because I couldn't get up and go get other colors or a different substrate. I repeated the basic composition of strong vertical marks and explored how changing the color created a totally different image which would have a totally different impact on the viewer. Where the first one reminded me of light filtering between trees this next one was like morning sun bursting through and obliterating shadows. When I posted this image to Instagram on 6/24/19 I said that working on this piece "kinda saved me today".
One works without thinking how to work. Jasper Johns
This one was mostly created on 6/26/19 ( fussed with on 6/27) . Being injured offered me a lot of opportunity to practice the acceptance of physical limitations, dependence on others and of course pain. I recognized there was a gift here. I was offered, if you will, solitude, and I took shelter in this solitude. I was prevented from running around, I could only do what was possible in my confined space. I learned to witness the pain, and truly come to recognize that I am not the pain. This pain while very real and debilitating, was temporary. This will pass. My response for today is another painting. As I started my painting, I decided to continue to repeat the basic composition and to continue to explore how to make a totally new image using my limited palette of colors.
Don’t be an art critic. Paint. There lies salvation. Paul Cezanne
I was beginning to realize that this daily work, necessarily demanded that I work in a manner that differed significantly from my established studio routine. In my regular studio practice I always started with the expectation that I would work on the same piece over a period of days, even when I worked on smaller pieces. Sometimes the work on a single piece continued for weeks, even months as I edited; painting over and then scraping away to reveal layers that had been covered. The additive and subtractive process was part of the conversation I had with the artwork. Creating a painting a day (or two or three days) severely curtailed the editing and the resulting work was fresher, more immediate. Because I had to relinquish my normal approach to working on a painting, new paths were revealed. I also had to relinquish the critiquing and second guessing that is typical of my studio practice. On 6/27/19 I stopped working on this piece, thinking I'll look at this again tomorrow and maybe work on it some more. Then, the next morning I decided that it was complete as is.
By this time, people were starting to ask about and comment on these paintings. One person stated that she could see the pain in this work. That was an interesting response to my ears. I was engaged in mark making and exploration of color, while working through pain. I could not deny that pain was present, but I was not intentionally portraying pain. Still isn't it interesting that someone saw pain?
Another person asked if these were studies? This question gave me pause. I was clear that these were not "studies or sketches' meant to be inspiration for a larger piece. Each piece should stand on its own merit. I was focused on the process. I had a direct connection to each piece. At the same time I knew at some point in the future, when I return to the studio, this work will inform the larger pieces. About this time I began to wonder what would these pieces look like in an installation? in a grid format perhaps?
On 6/29/19 all of my will power and resolution could not overcome exhaustion and sickness on top of pain. I had to skip the work. I rallied on 6/30/19 to produce the one below, the last in this series.
I would like to note that there was another emotional struggle not yet mentioned. As I have said this was a very different way of working one in which editing was not part and parcel of my creating, This change in approach caused tension within me, there were times I had to push away fears that I was just wasting costly paints and paper.
To cope with this I had to give myself permission to not think about product, to experiment, to be curious. In this way I was able to continue to work.
While working I let go of anxiety about the past and future, and relaxed into the work in front of me. Through this work I am able to nurture an inner peacefulness. I use the present moment to transcend the physical and nourish my spirit. What about you? What activities do you find enjoyable enough that they nourish your soul? What could you focus on, leaving behind anxiety about the past or the future? What can you do, starting tomorrow, or even today, to move in that direction? To see more daily artworks please check out .