“I find myself in a dark place in my painting practice. I periodically go through these times when I can’t seem to find my way, painting myself into corner after corner. Nothing is clear…the images that seemed to rise spontaneously only a few weeks ago are now cloaked in the darkness of a moonless night. Fear settles uncomfortably in the pit of my stomach, wrapped tightly in the chains of self-doubt. It is suffocatingly hard work; to show up in my studio day after day, spending hours pushing paint and to have nothing to show for it. But I keep showing up, doing the work. Eventually, either my eyes will adjust to the dark, or my muse will turn her light on and illuminate the path.” – Kate Dardine

This week was a challenge on so many fronts. The back pain mentioned last week turned into a full-blown medical issue. I spent the majority of the week on painkillers and muscle relaxers, which helped, but left me feeling like I had exchanged one problem (pain) for another (lack of exercise). But this level of pain is nothing to mess around with, so I took it easy. The kittens were spayed on Thursday and stayed overnight at the vet until their pick up on Friday (this is normal.) The house was eerily quiet Thursday night and Key and I lounged around, neither believing the quiet of the place. And Friday was my birthday, which felt like a cruel joke with the number of medical issues I’ve gone through in the last month. Like my grandpa said, getting old is tough. Saturday I sat down and cleaned my in-box, paid my bills, collected info on taxes, and generally did adulting. Around noon, feeling righteous, I headed to the studio. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t feel all that inspired. My back hurt and lounging around doing a puzzle felt like more fun. But if there is one thing I know about painting, its that you have to show up.

Showing Up

I took this piece to my critique group (thank you for everyone’s support on it) and adjusted the water area. Due to the scratches, it’s not exactly what I envisioned, but I may do it again someday. It is a nice piece, just different from how I imagined it.

“Dancer in Fourth” (2021) – 15″ x 11″ watercolor, $75

Next, I tackled this piece. “Shine” has turned into a piece that defies its promising start. I did everything right on this piece: I did a value study; I had intention; I had a strong dominance of idea. The first steps looked promising. And then, my idea outmatched my mechanics. In spite of all the planning, I couldn’t develop the subtle directionality I had envisioned. I did some modeling on the computer. I put some acetate over it. But finally, I accepted that for right now my idea was beyond my ability to produce it. On that note, I added some small piece of gold foil to the painting to finish it.

“Shine” (2021) – 15″ x 11″ watercolor with gold leaf, $75

While I may adjust this more, I am left reminded of James McNeill Whistler, who produced a painting in a relatively short period of time, put a high price on it, and then was mocked (it’s an interesting story.)

“Oh, two days! The labour of two days, then, is that for which you ask two hundred guineas!”
“No;—I ask it for the knowledge of a lifetime.”

I’ve put up this image before, but it’s as true now as any other time I’ve put it up.

Years of frustration, moments of joy.

A few weeks ago I also started “Touch”. I thought this painting would be a simple one. It has turned into the opposite. This is a classic example of “peas and carrots” painting. While the background is a luscious mix of colors (peas), the horse is pretty monochromatic (carrots.) The two elements don’t talk together well. I’ll take this to critique and see if a solution comes, but I think the basic problem is that I played it too safe on the horse painting and should have gone bolder, or used a more subtle background,

“Touch” (2021) – 15″ x 11″ watercolor, $75

During the week I started this painting. I’m not sure why it was so urgent, but it called to me. There is a lot that I like coupled with a few things that I wish I could fix. My critique group will be busy.

“Youth and power” (2021) – 15″ x 11″ watercolor, $75

As I cycled through the adjustments on these paintings, I finally started something new. I used a brayer to put down the color, then used charcoal to add the lines. I like this approach and I’m going to have to figure out where I can take it.

“Bend” (2021) – 15″ x 11″ watercolor, $75

Here’s hoping the next week brings increased mobility, decreased pain, and more inspiration. For everyone!