Studio Diaries: The Drop

Studio Diary: August 21, 2018

After 10 straight days of work, including production week for the Studio Yearbook,  I decided to take a couple of days to myself. I was looking forward to some reading, writing and art-making. I’d been wanting to get to a class I’d signed up for and thought, now is the time.

After laying down some lines and collage pieces, I quite liked the watery face that was emerging. I took a picture and thought I was off to a good start. But then, quite quickly, it turned into a familiar experience, one that I have seen clients go through again and again, one that stops us cold.

Let’s call it “The Drop.”

There you are, all excited to finally be painting, thrilled to have some creative time. You start working on something, full of excitement and anticipation. This is going to be fun! And suddenly, DROP, it turns hard. You hate what you’re making. In fact, it embarrasses you. You can’t figure out what’s wrong with it or how to make it better. You just know it sucks. Pretty soon you’re telling yourself that YOU suck. Why even bother? Clearly your 6th grade teacher was right – art is not your thing!

I was so disappointed when the drop hit me. I was frustrated and even kind of angry. Why didn’t I know what to do next? Was there an instruction that I had missed? Was there a missing instruction?  I honestly just wanted to throw my painting out and walk away.

But how would that help? What would I learn from that?

Just that I am a person who gives up on my art.

Not me. Instead I’m going to look for any little thing that I do like about my painting, no matter how small…

like this character’s right eye. Okay, that’s something.

Wait.. What about her left eye? I kind of like it too, the way it looks like a reflection of the moon, just like the symbol on her forehead.

Okay, what about what I don’t like? Anything in that category is fair game and can be painted over, eradicated, transformed or erased. No sense being precious about things that don’t work! Instead I’d just try something else and if it didn’t work either, well, at least I was experimenting and learning.

I didn’t end up getting the piece to a point where I liked it but I did make sure to actively gain insight from the painting and the experience of creating it.

I continued to ask myself, “What elements of the painting please me?” I looked for clues about who I am as a painter.  I liked any part that glowed.  I loved the way the orange looked against the purpley blue. I liked purple and blue and red. I loved the sense of the moon and mystery. I enjoyed the look of layered collage. I liked the scribble in the hair and in the shadows but not on the face.

Yes, I looked at what I didn’t like too. I didn’t just go for a big dismissive “I hate this” moan!! Okay, I started there. You know I did. But after some time, I got analytical. What was it that wasn’t working? I might not know how to fix it but being able to identify it would be a step in the right direction. I didn’t like the proportions. The head seemed too big. Could I make it smaller? What if I looked at it from far away? Did I feel differently?

Most of all, there was something about it that just didn’t feel like “me.” It wasn’t my style. Of course this makes perfect sense. I’m working with another teacher’s approach and I am just learning. It will take many paintings before my hand starts to shine through.

I learned and then I left it.

Later that day, simply to capture the moment, I decided to draw the simple outline of the face I had painted in my yearbook.

The unexpected thing was that I loved it! Suddenly this ‘character’ was more my own. She felt like she came out of my imaginative world (probably because I have done way more drawing than painting) and that felt good. And the truth is that if I hadn’t found my way through the drop, if I hadn’t stuck with it, I wouldn’t have landed here.

On top of that, I am confident that in sticking with a painting that I didn’t love I am that much closer to being able to create one that I do.

In fact, I’m well on my way!