So, because I'm in this limbo-before-the-breakthrough, I've decided to return to my roots. My drawing roots, that is.
I love my babies' bodies, and since they were born I've been wishing I would take the time to draw them more. But they don't sit still, and I'm cross-eyed, and I'm out of practice, and etc, etc. I have lots of excuses to stay stuck.
I have tried to draw them a few times, and I end up with a scritchy abstract jumble of lines because, seriously, they just keep moving. So I decided to cheat. I took some pictures of them in the bath, when they are most gorgeous, and did some sketches from those.
I have a great idea for a painting I'm going to do based on these sketches. You know, after the breatkthrough.
Body in knots, head in a muddle. I keep thinking I can get to the bottom of the thoughts -- if I just keep pulling them out one by one, I'll come to the end, or The Answer. It's faulty, to say the least. It's a trap.
I did a little of a lot of things today, nothing felt very satisfying. And of course I blow it up to be so huge that the daubs and swishes of paint that I put down today were NOT GOOD and VERY UGLY and WHAT DOES IT MEAN ABOUT ME AND MY FUTURE. So easy to get stuck there... then I go to the thinking, determined to think every last thought; to think an answer, to think relief.
I know I am ornery and tight and caught up on these same familiar snags. I wanted to do something NOT MYSELF -- how did I end up doing this utterly and completely MYSELF mark on the canvas? And I don't know how to make a different mark, so I'm stuck with this daub-daub, wipe-wipe approach that is maddening, and my colors are all wrong, and on and on.
I went to mess up the two encaustic collages I made years ago when Auden was a baby, because it had worked so well with the "There Is a Design" piece, and that felt so good.
Now I've covered up too much with paint. Patchy calico paint that's at once too dark and too chalky and makes no sense and there's no sense of freedom in the brushstrokes, just that same dense willfulness, contrived and badly executed.
Struggling with each layer.
Struggling with painting in general. I feel as though I'm on the verge of breaking through something SOMETHING and this period before the breakthrough is agonizing. Full of doubt and distress, so uncomfortable to hesitate making any mark, to be dissatisfied with every mark. I mix the same colors in the same proportions and wonder why I get the same mud every time
Reworking these hand pieces, I'm baffled. What do I do next? Which color and where? I'm fighting with the surface, the composition. Trying to stay available to answers that are still unseen. Unseeable. So hard to comprehend that there could be any kind of resolution. How can I call myself a painter when I hate painting and don't know how to do it? So go the voices in my head.
Can I allow that each piece is important, even if it's never right or beautiful or finished?
I read a quote by Albert Einstein: "It's not that I'm so smart, it's that I stay with a problem longer."
The commission that I started back in May, resolved, finally:
It was fitful toward the end, as it usually is for me, when I sense that I'm close but can't settle on how to put final touches in their right place.
These paintings turned out to be so much more quiet and soft than I'd originally planned, and I was really fighting with myself about how to bring back the boldness and rhythm of the first layers. There is always tension between what I think I want, and what the painting itself is doing.
So, I pulled my hair and bit my lips and dabbed and erased and huffed and puffed, and somewhere in there I mixed the sweetest gray and it found its way in, balancing and brightening. Even as I was overthinking it, each panel gently found its completion and waited for me to hush my mind enough to see it.
I guess I didn't want to allow that the final step could be so small and subtle... I was hoping for a flourish! Some drama! But no.
I was also waiting to feel finished, and that didn't happened right away. Now they're packed and shipped, and I'm waiting to hear that they've found their home and match the wall color. Then I'll exhale.
I had another fit trying to name them, and after brainstorming a list of words, I felt like I usually do while playing Scrabble -- that certainly these letters add up to something? Plene is a word, right? How about palanquist? Dictionary.com was no help, nor Thesaurus.com, but when I told Jason, he suggested maybe I was thinking of palanquin. It's good to be married to an academic.
Palanquins, it turns out, are canopied chairs carried aloft by porters, used to bear noble people or royalty, or, with a more crude construction, to bear the wounded from the battlefield. One definition says, "a wheel-less vehicle, a type of human-powered transport, for the transport of persons." They also look a little like omikoshi in Japan, which are ornate gilded little shrines, held in the same way, used in festivals to carry the gods through the streets.
I like the idea of my vertebrae, especially the atlas, as a palanquin. A human-powered vehicle, for the transport of my person, my head, my gods, my silly ideas.
Thank you, MV, for the opportunity to make art for you, I truly hope it works just right in your space. If not, you're going to have to re-paint that wall.
Auden and I have this very weird recurring potty conversation. You know, the one that happens when you're helping your kid on the toilet? You don't have that one? Well, here, enjoy ours:
"I don't know, a train?"
"Maybe it's a slug!"
"A slug? Ew." [poops]
"What was that?"
"I don't know, a snake?"
"A snake came outta my butt!"
"I have a surprise for you, mom!"
"What is it?" [gets off toilet]
"Is that just what you always wanted?"
I got a great home-made train table from my cousin -- her boyfriend had built it years ago, and their kids weren't playing with it much anymore. I was running around like a mad-woman in the days before our move, but I'd been wanting a table for the kids for ages, so even though Jason was at the point of "LOOK AT ALL THIS STUFF, oh my god how do we have so much stuff?" I was happy to go pick it up and load it into the moving truck.
Once we were moved in and more or less set up, I hauled out my collage materials and dove in. It felt really good to have a project -- it had been about a month, the point at which I start getting a little itchy.
I don't have a good "before" shot, but you can see that it was white with your standard green-grass-blue-water-gray-rocks motif:
I pasted a bunch of different paper on it, including some cool topo-maps and Japanese train time-tables -- so, abstract but having a little something to do with land and trains:
Here, a rare shot of the artist at work (well, the artist's backside, anyway, along with loyal side-kick in underpants):
Auden was very helpful with the gluing part, but in general does not have patience for these kinds of projects. Specifically, the part where he's not allowed to play on it yet:
Look out Sir Bevis, a T-Rex and a giant sloth behind you!
Next I did a layer of paint, sticking with quiet colors -- "desert hues" as Jason calls them. I added a few more scraps of paper, and a cool stencil that I'd made years ago from the shadow my plant cast on the wall:
And then there was another break in production to test out the surface. Suitable for cars and trucks:
It was interesting to work on this surface, because it's big like a painting, but is horizontal and doesn't have a top or bottom. The composition needed to be balanced but not too focused. I added some paper circles, and some curved lines in paint to create some more geometrical shapes, and that felt just right:
Then I painted the sides and the legs a dark honey-brown color, and then sealed it all with polyurethane. I wanted the whole table to blend in with our furniture and not scream PLAYROOM like the original paint job was doing. Besides, white gets so dirty, and this way you can't see all the paw-prints from the many beasties who come to play.
And play they do. It may be the single best investment I've made, for how much use it gets (although, I should point out, the only thing they DON'T do on it is build train tracks):
Here's the finished table, in our front parlor:
Now, carry on with your mock-battles and lego dismemberment: