It’s been an interesting few days in the studio. Yesterday I couldn’t settle, I finished one piece but struggled to get near resolution on others. I had to force myself to switch to something completely different to shake up the energy and I finished the day with only a slight feeling that I’d achieved anything.

My painting was veering between productive time where (I think) one got finished, and not being able to get the right colour in the right place. It reminds me of playing golf – one beautiful par sandwiched between 17 holes of frustrating misses!

But because I wanted to paint, I carried on…. not on those which were frustrating me but on a new set of three. Once I realised I was getting sucked into the game of ‘oh, that didn’t work, I’ll just try this’ and the colours started muddying, I put them aside, cleaned my brushes, mixed new colours.

I find I can recognise that state much more quickly now, that realisation of the more I force this, the more dissatisfied I’ll be with it. Previously I would have pushed and pushed, determined to ‘pull it back’ so I could finish on a high. More often than not though I’d end up frustrated and angry with the results, another canvas condemned to the corner until I have the courage to tackle it again.

Now though, it happens rarely.

Actually, not at all 🙂

Since I started to learn about my behaviour and the patterns I follow, I’ve found I can see it happening and take action to make the necessary changes before I get sucked in. No, it isn’t easy, and yes, I still want to keep going (I’m incredibly stubborn, keeping going long after I should have quit!), but I’m realising that such will do me no favours.

Rather than apply more and more paint, making a muddy mess and losing what I love about the painting, I’m now learning to stop – think a moment, is carrying on with this going to help? No! So go wash your brushes, set out a fresh colour palette and work on something else. So that’s what I did. Started a new set of 3.

It felt great to be with blues again after the purples and greens I’ve been using. It felt familiar, comforting – yet I want to do something different with these 3, so I needed to keep checking in with what I was doing, how I was applying the paint, the marks I was making, where I was placing each colour. I wouldn’t usually do that this early on, but these 3 panels have a history, they’ve all been worked on before and abandoned (hmm, that sounds familiar), so with the underlying layers already applied, I could start thinking about the composition and design much sooner.

I’ve got an idea in mind for them but I’m not going to hold on to that too tightly, as I want them to retain an energy and freshness rather then feel tight and controlled. This is my challenge for this trio, one I hope I’m up to!

Today’s studio time was the opposite. I started the day with the intention of finishing – something I struggle with. My first task of the day was to get the selection heading to a show next weekend ready for delivery. Signed, certificated, logged and labelled. It wasn’t a big job but one I’ve been putting off.

Completing that inspired me to move onto my Windsor selection – painting edges, certificates, varnishing, basically getting them all ready to put in the frames when they arrive! With that I updated my inventory and realised with some surprise and delight that I’ve made 26 paintings this year! There are 5 which are as yet unfinished but I’m feeling confident they will be ready to debut at Windsor, and the rest are now entering the final stages of readiness to display.

It was an exciting time! I’m not great at tracking numbers and stats, but this really illustrated how productive I’ve been this year, despite it feeling to the contrary. Now I know exactly where I am with my body of work I feel much less stressed by it and can see more clearly what needs to be done to take these last few pieces to completion.

These last couple of days have reminded me that it’s not all fun and productivity in our creative endeavours! As with many other things, we have good times and we have not so good. Some days the materials feel so much a part of us we can create effortlessly, little conscious input needed, simply go where it takes us and enjoy the ride. We are so in flow that time passes in a whirlwind of painterly bliss!

Other days are less satisfying though and challenge us somewhat. We may struggle to mix the colour we desire, to apply the paint how we saw it in our mind, to create a composition which works and feels good. On those days I feel that my creativity has gone on holiday and I fear for how long it may decide to be away. The what if’s start….. what if I can’t get this composition right? What if I mess it up now? What if I can’t recover those bits about it I loved before I pushed it too far?

From those fears, frustration and feelings of inadequacy arise. What am I thinking, I’m not an artist! I’m playing at this and this proves it. I don’t have the talent it takes to be a professional – otherwise I’d be able to sort this mess out. And so on.

Great for the self esteem right?

Because who is to say I don’t have the talent? Who is to say I’m doing this ‘wrong’? That I have no right to call myself an artist? That my work is crap and inadequate?

Nobody. Nobody is going to say that (only my inner critic…. and she can shut it right now!) because it isn’t true.

When these internal conversations start and the self doubt creeps in, the best thing I’ve found is to do something different. Start a new piece, do some admin, take some photographs, have a nap. Walk away from the thing which is tormenting me and break the cycle before it grips me and crushes my confidence. Allow some time before returning to it and nearly every time, just a day or two later, returning to it with fresh eyes allows me to see exactly what I want to do with it.

Failing that, I load up a wide brush with white and block out a large portion of the painting. Then I have to react, I have to do something, anything, and this will lead me to something new which I’d never have got to otherwise.

If you like what I do, please support me!

© Natalie Day 2018

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