I have put my painting on the back burner this year and been concentrating on writing and doing some extra “real” work(the stuff that makes actual money). Now though, there is the possibility of a show next year and I really need to knuckle down.
For some reason writing comes easy. I find myself sitting down at the PC and suddenly it is four or eight hours later. With painting it is different and I have to try all sorts of subterfuge to get myself to the table. Or rather the Child Within(CW), for it often feels like trying to coax a child to eat her vegetables or go to bed early.
- A lot of the time, the strategy involves cleaning the house until the last place left is the studio. Sort of like cleaning, as opposed to painting, myself into a corner. The idea is that I will eventually get to the table and something will happen. This can work quite well as the CW thinks that she is rebelling when she stops cleaning to mess with some paint. More recently though, I think she is on to me and often manages to wriggle out of it.
Last week for instance, from Monday through to Wednesday, I scrubbed the house from top to bottom, leaving the studio until last. And still it remains unclean because the wriggly CW insists that in order to really organise the room I need to get rid of the curtains and buyblinds, which I cannot afford. So persuasive is she, I cannot unstick the blinds from my head, they have actually blinded me. And so we are at a stalemate.
But the Grown Up Me(GUM) thinks, “I have painted with curtains before(but mostly I use brushes 😉 ) so I will just get over myself and do it.” There then followed 3 days of fannying about followed by about 20 minutes drawing on Friday night just when I was about to go to my real job. I consider those 20 minutes a triumph for the GUM
This week, I knew I would HAVE to start and last night(after only two days fannying about) I wrote down a list of things I would have to do today, including two hours painting, which doesn’t sound like much but one doesn’t want to frighten the CW. Making a list often works for me and like many things that work for me I had forgotten about it
And so, it worked. I had already done a bit of groundwork in realising that writing and cartooning, which were coming easily, were eating massive chunks of my time. (The Writing Me(WM) is like the older sensible child that you can trust to get on with things).
I reasoned that if I got my two hours painting done in the morning before the CW was awake enough to know what was going on(she’s not good in the mornings)then the writing would happen by itself later in the day. The other way around and I would be writing for hours and then I would have to eat and then the CW would rationalise that the day was half gone and we should just start fresh tomorrow after a tiny, tiny glass of wine….
The only problem is that I find it very hard to stick to a structure(or the CW does-let’s just blame it all on her 😉 ) and to introduce more than one good habit into my life at a time is asking for an implosion, so when I woke this morning I had to jettison my newly re-acquired meditation habit to get the CW to the table. You have to know when to push and when to let go. It was, in the end, a deal worth making and, as is usual I stayed working for 4 hours and could have done more.
After all that I could not blame you for asking why I bother if it is so difficult for me to even start doing?Why not just write?It’s a question I often ask myself.
On a practical level, painting costs money to do, the brushes, supports, canvasses, paints are expensive especially when you want to get the right stuff, like I do. Brushes for instance, there is nothing worse than bad or old brushes. After todays session I know I need at least €100 of brushes fairly sharpish. Ouch. Then when you have finished there is the framing. Shows, even when you sell sometimes, lose you money. Writing costs are minimal in comparison.
The act of painting in itself is extremely lonely. Strangely enough, I don’t find writing lonely at all, it’s as if all the people who have ever been in my world are crowding around me arguing to be heard.
Painting is quite a narrow non-verbal type of expression and can be quite dull and in fact two-dimensional. I would like to develop towards sculpture or installation work but alas I think I need a more structured practise for that which would cause the CW to have a conniption fit. With writing one doesn’t need a bigger work space or different equipment to experiment.
So, it would make more sense to jack in the painting and I often think of doing it, I often do do it. But, after all that there is just a deep pull within to paint, why, I am not sure. It could be as simple as the fact that I am a visual person, due to my bad hearing, and it is the communication I am most at ease with. It could also be because long ago I had a dream to paint, a dream that has lost a lot of its lustre as I have come to know the boring reality of being a painter, but it is a dream that has somehow wrought my soul.
I do know that when I paint I create my own world, one that I am in charge of. It is not the esoteric world of colour and sense I am talking about but rather a real world within the world, one where I get to make all the decisions. In this world I am the only one who knows how to make my work-which is physically tangible. I know how and where to hang it, who gets to see it, buy it. It’s all mine and for an ego battered in the worlds of work, family, society, where I have little power over how I am perceived or treated, this republic of independence is a balm for my tired soul.
As I sit here and look out at the sea and the clouds and the sparrows that are fluttering around the window I am realising some of the differences between painting and writing for me. Writing makes sense of this world, even makes sense of my inner world but painting is a door onto another world, the non-verbal esoteric world I touched on a paragraph or two ago. Maybe painting excavates things that the Child Within then hands over to the Writing Me to interpret.
Looked at like this, I should not, I suppose, make fun of my Child Within, my beloved CW. Though I give out about her, as you would give out about an over active child, I cherish her, my spirited excavator, my fearless explorer. And in the way a parent can love two completely different children, I am also blessed and relieved by Writing Me, a part of me that can be left to get on with it without all the drama of cleaning and re-cleaning the house 🙂
Today at least, I was reminded of my main reason for painting, the most immediate reason:When I am doing it, or more accurately when I have done it, when I push away from the easel, when I start to clean up my brushes, I suddenly realise I am happy.