Life Imitating Art

I'm working on a series right now, a series that scares me. Yes, scares me. The reason is that I don't know if my skill level matches my ambition. This particular body of work is close to my heart, it means more to me than any images I've painted in the past ... and that's what has me nervous. It's also my first narrative series. I've always painted “singletons” before. It's bigger in scope; the stakes are higher; the potential for disappointment is higher. When all is said and done, will the images convey what I envision or fall flat? And because it matters to me, failure to produce what I envision is enough to scare the crap out of me.

And that's precisely why I need to push forward despite my overwhelming levels of resistance.

  Study for “Labyrinthos” series.

Study for “Labyrinthos” series.

It's also why I need to let go and have fun, and let it be what it wants to be. I've talked before, in my blog, about how not having an agenda when I make art frees me up to allow it to flow and often results in something better than I expected. And while this series of images is so very important to me, it won't get made or won't get made well if I'm over-controlling, apprehensive about trying new things, too focused on the outcome and not the process. It really boils down to the old adage, “it's the journey not the destination”. It's strange how despite loving the process and being somewhat sad when it reaches completion, before I can get started on an image I get that backwards and it becomes all about the finished product and not the process. And truthfully, if an image doesn't work out as planned I can always have another go at it, despite the fact that my brain likes to tell me it's an all or nothing thing and if at first I don't succeed, it's over. And “oh, I have this idea for something else, I'll just paint it while I wait to feel inspired and confident enough to tackle this”. That's a trap too. A more productive one, maybe even occasionally helpful to get the hand moving again, but it can be a dangerous trap. I've been there, done that, numerous times since I started this series. I'm well-acquainted with my inner subterfuge now, having been complicit in being hoodwinked by it more times than I care to admit. It's trying to be helpful, to keep me from disappointment, from embarrassment, from a crushing sense of “not enough-ness”. Really it is! But it's misguided and hindering me from genuine artistic growth when I allow it to do that.

Hilariously, the overarching theme of the series is exploring the unconscious and facing all aspects of ourselves, pleasant or unpleasant. So my resistance is really right on track in that department. I'm painting a version of what I'm experiencing trying to paint about that theme. Life imitating art. Art imitating life.

  Detail from “Portal”.

Detail from “Portal”.

I painted the first image in the series, “Portal”, last Spring. As I described it in my blog post “The Call to Adventure”, “It's the invitation, the beckoning to open the door, and step into the story; to traverse the path that circles upon itself and leads ultimately to your center.” Ironically, it's turned out that it's me who has to summon up the courage to open that door and step into my own story. I wasn't expecting that. The key to that door is my paintbrush. Time to unlock it!