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Evening Calls was a great learning opportunity for me. It taught me how repetition can enable us to learn about more about our capacity for creativity. And it taught me not to judge my ‘failures’ too harshly, because they’re usually what provide me the opportunity for my successes.
I began this piece long before I actually started painting on this particular canvas. It began with my usual value sketch. Just a small 2″x3″ pencil sketch in my artist’s journal. And then, again as I usually do, I painted a small 2″x3″ color sketch of it. I decided to work this piece in a small format – just 7″x9″ on another canvas. After I finished it though, I just wasn’t that pleased with the result. It was a lovely enough painting I guess. But it just didn’t glow like I remembered the scene looked that evening.
Now, my typical working style is that I only paint one version of most of my references. In the 15+ years I’ve been painting I’ve found that a second attempt is rarely as successful as the first. I know a lot of artists regularly paint a study, often on location (ie ‘plein air’) and then a second piece in their studio.
I always found though that trying to create a studio version of a study was terribly unsettling. I could never recreate the feeling I had of discovering all the wonderful moments in the painting the second time, as I’d experienced painting the first canvas. The feeling of creating a second piece was never as spontaneous or fresh as the first. Also, perhaps worse, my perfectionistic and critical dialogue would spin in my head, pointing out all the places that didn’t look ‘the same’ as the study. I typically found it to be a frustrating and self-defeating exercise, and would rarely come out with a better piece anyways. And so I decided that this must just not be ‘my style of working’ and gave up on the idea of being able to create two, enjoyable painting experiences and as a result two uniquely lovely paintings, from the same reference.
However, this time was a little different. I’d put the original away for a few weeks; didn’t really think much of it afterwards short of feeling a little disappointed in it. However this time I’d scheduled to do a painting demonstration at Galleria in Inglewood shortly afterwards. I’d had a reference in mind that I wanted to paint, but for some reason that morning, I woke up not feeling like working on it that day. As I was preparing my supplies to leave I quickly changed my mind deciding to give my Glenbow study a second attempt. The result of my demonstration that day is the 11″x14″ canvas above named ‘Evening Calls’.
What a thrill! I actually was able to create a second painting that was (in my humble opinion), even better than the first! And the process was just as enjoyable – perhaps even more. I’d finally overcome my own roadblock. It enabled me to see that no matter how used to a working process we may get, we can always step out of it and end up with a great result. Sometimes it just takes time. Maybe sometimes it’s that the right time for us to learn something new hasn’t happened yet. I don’t really know how it all works I guess. And maybe sometimes it’s ok to not know. Sometimes it’s just about accepting yourself and the way you work each moment. And knowing that when it’s time to find a new way it will call to you itself, and show you the way.
This is another reason why I paint. Thanks so much for reading and for allowing me to share my thoughts and feelings with you about creativity and art. Happy day. Cheryl.