It’s been a month since I have decided to give up painting. It’s a decision I made before but this time I felt I was ready for it and it has come from a positive place. In a way its not painting I am giving up on but the pattern of my life and the easiest thing for me to do, being an impulsive person who likes wrecking things, was to pull out the centre of it. Pull out the painting and the whole structure will collapse. Then rebuild.
Of course in practise it will take a while to collapse the structure. I can’t just leave my job, which is the thing that serviced the centre for so many years, but I know now that it’s a huge part of my dissatisfaction. It is no longer worth doing it and my painting does not need me to give up so much for it any more. In short, I want my weekends back, I want a social life and also I want a job I can engage in, be a person in.
During this month other reasons for giving up painting have risen to the surface. First of all, plain and simple, just getting some rest. I cannot believe how much time I have spent looking at things and trying to fit them into pictures. I have gone periods without painting before but never in my grown up life have I ever stopped looking and let me tell you it is such a relief being able to see things and not feeling I have to do anything with them. It feels good.
It is here that the deeper part of me, the part that decided to give painting a rest, has made itself known. As I look and I see the sky, stones, colours, folds of cloth and I automatically start to imagine how I will paint them, another, calmer voice cuts in. “It’s OK, you don’t have to do that now.” I feel like I am being looked after.
One evening, sitting on the bed, where my painting table used to be, looking out at the mountains under a red sky, the mountains that speak to me of death and sadness and the end of things, I turned and caught my shadowy self in the mirror and I immediately thought “Self portrait..” but the other me cut in, kindly. “No, not now.” It unhitched me from that thought, leading me away as you would lead a child and I turned back to the mountains and suddenly I understood something else.
For most of my life, when I have been depressed, which is nearly all the time I know, but when I get especially bad my mind latches onto an idea-stones, seaweed, fabric- and gives me something to do, distracts me, pulls me out of my funk. Or so it has seemed.
Sitting on the bed in a darkening room I knew painting had become a life belt of sorts, a distraction from deeper ills. This is fine when you have not the strength or tools to face whatever it is you need to face but now some part of me has decided I am strong enough to face anything or to at the least to let go of the life belt and start to swim. This makes me feel good.
I feel privileged to be allowed to catch glimpses of this other self out of the corner of my minds eye, a calmer, surer person who seems to be guiding me away from things as they lay. It is not something that may stay with me but for now I like knowing that person is there.
Now I feel that giving up painting is not really giving it up at all I just no longer want it to be a life belt or a distraction. If I am to have painting I want it to be in my life as itself rather than as an excuse or a crutch or a cypher.
In the mean time, back in the real world, this month has been frustrating. The surer, calmer me has shown up only a few times and is obviously busy with other things as I continue to struggle. Plans to dig into my psyche to get to the root of my pain(as mentioned in the last post) are going slowly, in fact I didn’t start the course until three weeks after I intended to. But then again resistance is to be expected and I’ll push slowly on.
I moved my bed into my studio and then moved it back into the little room under the roof again after two weeks, as it is just too bright to sleep in, kiboshing my grand gesture of using my studio a place of rest. Now it is an empty space with a desk and an under-used meditation cushion.
I threw out a lot of my old paintings, ones that’s were all dark brown and hurty and painted from a very bad place many years ago. Dumping them felt really good. I gave the stretchers to a painter friend who will use them well. I have also trimmed down a lot of my equipment and back up material but that’s all still in (slow)progress too. I am still looking at ways of getting my existing paintings out there too so my paintings may still be out and about.
My job is proving more and more stressful all the time and I have been quite a bit under the weather this month. I am back on my feet now and back on my bike too as well as doing a bit of running.
So things have changed a little and not changed and everything is still confusing and messy and…like life, I suppose.
Deciding to give up painting seems like a good thing for me right now. Even at the best of times I get depressed at the amount of art that is out there both the really good(what’s the point saying something when so many can say something so much better?) and the really bad (what’s the point saying something well when so many who speak gobbledy gook are revered as masters?) and I am glad not to be a part of that right now.
As well as that, I have always had a certain ambivalence about creating more things to clutter the world(and my house) with. I don’t think that will change.
I will paint again I think, the Gods allowing, but for now, that other part of me(or is a part of something else even bigger than me?) says “Not yet, not yet.”