I have been writing too much. Last year it seemed that I was writing and writing and painting just a little. Some of the paintings were good but most of them felt old, old in that they were echoes of what I used to do, had been doing for so many years. I can’t explain it, except to say that when I looked at them I saw myself two, even five years ago, the same approach, the same emotion, maybe a general improvement in technique and materials, but still that underlying...sameness.
There was a part of me remembering what it felt like, long ago, before I learned about painting. A part that could remember the escape into the paint without the worry that worried me now, and part that whispered late into the night that I was well on my way toward competent mediocrity. I began reading, and then I was reading and writing too much and still painting just a little, only the painting became less and less enjoyable until I wondered if I really wanted to be an artist at all.
I don’t really think my experience is unique. We like to call it a growth process, but it’s damn discouraging when it happens – yes, we’re supposed to come out of it stronger but that only happens if you destroy a bit of yourself in the process – that bit that holds on to what you’ve been doing, the part that creeps into your work and makes it look old.
And that’s the thing, because there does seem to be a strong rational for creating work that appeals to the gatekeepers, those in power who tell the public what to look for in fine art. In one of the books I am reading, titled Why Art Artists Poor? The Exceptional Economy of the Arts, the author, Hans Abbing (an economist and an artist), describes what he calls the two kinds of Art – High Art and Low Art, and that those who enjoy High Art look down on Low Art, while those who understand Low Art might admire High Art but they will never embrace it.
It’s one of the books I probably shouldn’t have started to read, when I was reading and writing too much, because it made it more difficult to get back to serious painting. Oddly enough it didn’t interfere with the painting that felt old, so I suppose that out of cowardice I was safely painting the way I had been painting while I tried not to answer the questions as to why.
But that “getting back to serious painting” part – that’s the key phrase here. Because what I realized was that – for myself – the painting that felt old was the painting that was hanging on to the way I used to create – when what I was doing was slowly moving into a different place, a different perspective about what I wanted to achieve. And all that reading and writing was simply a way for me get beyond the form of tunnel vision that had been dictating my choices.
In an odd way I feel like I grew up a bit. That old growth process thing again.
But the new art doesn’t feel old.
Need a nudge?