The first time I made the first brush stroke for the first painting of this show reminded me of how it feels to run when you’re sore from a workout the previous day. You know that feeling? Heavy legs, little stamina, thick air, no desire to be anywhere but in your bed taking a nap. That’s how this first painting felt, and quite a few after it - torturously slow strides with torturous effort. And to make it even worse, the canvas quality was awful - which is basically like running in bad shoes.
On a more personal level, I wondered if I had anything to put into a painting, and if so, how could I find it? As I write this blog, I’m honestly not sure how or what to say to explain what this feeling was like, but I do want to share a deeper layer of this creative process - which has been as raw and necessary within the paintings as each physical paint layer. In mid February, I found myself in a crisis I could never have imagined. As a result, I didn’t pick up a paint brush for two months. I didn’t have anything to give to a painting - I tried, at first, thinking maybe it would help me heal, but I couldn’t think of anything to paint. So I spent two months doing other things. I travelled for a little while, spent time with friends, and read a lot. “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” was a particularly special discovery. These two months were a much needed season of rest and renewal, but eventually I realized I should probably start working again.
So there I was in mid May, staring at the canvas, trying to paint the first painting of this show. And as previously mentioned it wasn’t going well. So finally, after a few weeks of this, I sat down on the floor and wrote out some options.
Quit / find a new job
Move home to Tennessee (maybe also #1 with this?)
Order new canvas
I almost did 1 & 2 - never told my mom this - Mom, if you’re reading this, I’m sure you feel a little sad that I almost, and didn’t, move home but I also know you are so supportive of me being in Indy. I love you so much for that.
So I chose #3 and #4, and one thing that helped me stay was to start building a ton of stuff in the studio. I knew if I put a lot of time and work into transforming the space I would be less inclined to give it up. So I actually took another break from painting and built a table and some shelves, as well as a 10 x 5 foot canvas that would be really hard to move to Tennessee, thereby helping me stay in my studio. These things felt like anchors, if that makes any sense. They helped me feel a little more stable. And as far as the canvas went - I ordered some high quality linen which has been a dream.
From May onward I painted some not-so-great paintings that ended up in the trash (artist and friend Justin Vining has always been opposed to this, proving his point once by literally buying a painting out of my trash can - but I really just didn’t want to look at them any more, so I just needed to throw them away). And then little by little a new rhythm started to emerge - emotions started flowing through the brush again. Anger was harsher strokes, hope was sweeping strokes, grief was scattered strokes. Colors began to harmonize again. My eyes started to see things outside that sparked something inside me to paint - specifically speckled light as the new spring leaves cast shadows on the ground. I found myself wide awake many nights with excitement to paint a new idea. My studio plants were forgotten in this excitement, and unfortunately some of them had to join some of the early paintings that Justin Vining didn’t have a chance to buy. But everything else in the studio was growing, and I was relieved to sense that.
Now, just less than 2 months away from the upcoming show, I still sense growth, and I’m inexpressibly grateful. I’m grateful to paint. I’m grateful pain isn’t the end, and isn’t everything, even if it lingers. If you’re still reading, I’m so honored and grateful for that, as well. Thanks for supporting me in this journey. Thanks for slowing down to look at paintings in a culture that only slows down when it’s necessary. To me, this means you must think paintings are necessary, and I happen to agree.