I thought one was finished, and the other wasn’t far off, so I carried on with them. I realised the ‘finished’ one needed a little bit more, so did the other one, so I did a bit more, then a bit more, then a bit more (you can see where this is going….) until boom!
Overworked is an understatement. This pair were beyond overworked…. they were a sludgy, muddy, dark mess.
I was beside myself with frustration – after all I’ve claimed to have learnt on my posts, blogs and videos about knowing when to stop, how could I allow this to happen? At what point did I stop seeing that to take them any further would be their undoing?
Then after frustration came annoyance and anger at myself. Then the fear – the realisation that these were 2 of a series of 3 that were supposed to be a showcase of my best work at this big fair…. and now 2 of them no longer existed in a form in any way similar to the detail previews I’d been sharing on social media. I’d put out to the world that these paintings were going to be having their ‘big reveal’ at Windsor – AND NOW THEY WERE GONE!
What was I thinking? How could I possibly turn up at the show without these pieces? And what about the 3rd one of the set, what happens to that now? It’s completely unrelated to any other pieces going to the show?!
By now it was late in the day and the light was no good, so I forced myself to clear up, had a little cry and then reached out to my artist support group. I’ve ruuuuuuinnned them……. help! What do I do?
The response was immediate and supportive – so many of my peers have found themselves in this exact position and so understood how I was feeling, that sense of desperation and fear, that utter disbelief that I could be so stupid!!!!!
With their kind words and advice I slept on it, let my brain deal with it through the less painful process of subconscious reasoning and submitted to whatever answer came.
And boy did the answer come – that next morning I woke with an immediate knowing of how to move forward with this pair. From going to bed upset and frustrated, I woke up feeling energised and perhaps even excited. I couldn’t quite understand why, after all I was still in the same position of 2 (possibly 3) paintings short of my exhibition needs…… but that clarity brought with it a determination that these paintings were absolutely salvageable – I simply had to totally transform them into something else!
As I made bold strokes to cover the mess, I felt a sense of lightness, as though by painting out this muddiness I was giving myself permission to take them in a new direction. That I’d known they weren’t going the right way but because of the time and materials I’d invested in them I couldn’t ‘waste’ that on a whim.
Now though, having ruined them, I was free to run with whatever felt right – free from guilt. And so I did run with them, and I’m delighted with the end result! Not only did I transform the pair, I also went back to the small companion piece and gave that the same treatment to bring it back into the set.
It was a tough but valuable learning experience. Why had I felt, prior to ruining them, that it wasn’t okay to change direction with them? I’ve been doing that quite freely with all my other pieces, so what was it about this pair that I felt it wasn’t acceptable? I understand the process of making art and that changing direction is necessary and right sometimes…. I’ve spoken and written about it often. Yet this time I wasn’t able to give myself permission to do that. I felt a sense of responsibility that I’d ‘promised’ a certain product would be unveiled at the show and locked myself into delivering that. Even though it clearly wasn’t meeting my creative needs!
Anyway, the outcome was positive, I’ve got a new mindset thing to explore to ensure I never put myself through that again, and I now have an even better (in my opinion) set of paintings to debut next weekend which are a much more accurate representation of me as an artist. Lesson learned, thank you!
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© Natalie Day 2018