Getting Good at Being Bad

This isn’t about the time Buddy got into the garbage and left a collage of ripped up food wrappers on the kitchen floor.  Or how he runs into the studio while I am teaching classes and hides under the chair of the person who happens to be very allergic to him… (Sorry about that!). Or how he recklessly jumped out of a canoe to catch a fish last summer. Despite his very naughty behaviour I still love him so much and find him easy to forgive. I mean look at that face. 

                          Taken moments before the silly boy attempts to jump into the lake...

                         Taken moments before the silly boy attempts to jump into the lake...

It has not always been easy extending to myself and my artwork the same love and positivity I extend to my doggie, especially when a painting is bad (pee on the carpet bad). My process incorporates a lot of trial and error.  I get an idea, and very impulsively begin to play (it's a bit like jumping in a lake trying to catch an elusive fish). For a long time, a very long time, the paintings that ended in disaster, were very discouraging and upsetting.  My self-worth and quality of my day hinged on the results I achieved in my studio. Talk about pressure!

It's still frustrating when an idea doesn’t materialize, or when days spent on a piece results in “doggy collage".  But over time, many of these mishaps have led to some exciting work, so I’ve begun to cut myself some slack, or gotten good at being bad. Reading and watching movies about successful creative people, in different fields has been impactful. The first time Julia Child made Coq Au Vin, it wasn’t cookbook ready. Lots of tinkering took place before being ready for  “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. There were so many decisions Julia needed to consider. How much salt? Burgundy or Chianti? How long to sauté?  It’s similar in many ways to painting. How much red? Which red; pyrrole or cadmium? How much value contrast? How large should this shape be? How much wax to achieve the right translucency? Julia could answer her questions through cooking and tasting, and then cooking again. I try to create, taste and create again, just as Julia did. (NB: do not taste your paintings).

As a result, a bad painting is no longer a bad painting, it's actually a wonderful painting, because it is a valuable learning opportunity. I like to ask myself questions as I spend time with my challenging works. I wonder what to do next. I consider the process, my state of mind, the techniques. I wonder if my feelings are because it doesn't work, or because I just don’t personally connect to the piece? I have learned that trying to paint like someone else, or feeling bored with the subject-matter all result in bad work. From studying my work I realized that I needed to (and have) improved my ability to work with value. I learned that the music I paint with, influences the mood and energy of my work. From spending time together, I discovered that the work speaks to me, and tells me things about myself, that I have long since forgotten. The paintings that aren't quite right, are the ones I spend the most time with, learn from and grow from.  

I recently read up on Paul Cezanne, who seemed to work in a manner entirely different to Julia Child. He was known for leaving many of his paintings behind, in a field of all places, because he found them inadequate. Perhaps he was so good at being good, he did not need to be good at being bad.

This recent work, evolved from several trial and error pieces, that I first tasted but have since left behind in a field.

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