I have been very busy the past few months preparing new work for my first show in NYC in May. I tried to finish a bulk of the work before letting the gallery see it, as I don’t like too much influence. I also don’t entirely know what I am doing or where I am heading in the first few weeks. I say that literally. I honestly cannot imagine what this new body of work will look like. I do sometimes have a vague sense of it—I know that I want it to be better, more sophisticated, more powerful than work I have done before. Usually this means doing less. In other words the better work seems to happen when I am trying less hard. There usually is less thinking in it. If the painting is strong it will appear that it took less work and was easier to make but often it is quite the opposite. There will be numerous repainting and lots of do overs but the final result has to look fresh and inspired. It can’t be tired and have the slightest feeling of tedium.
I have noticed that sometimes I can get a body of work quite close to being done but then I find that I momentarily lose my sense of objectivity and cannot tell what is done and what is not. I simply have been too close to it.
This is a good time for the gallery to visit. Not that they are the gatekeepers of what is good or finished. But the reaction of someone who is walking in fresh is useful. Generally the paintings I am positive about, they are too. “Wow! that one is great.” Then they look at the one next to it and nod and say, “Yes, this is looking good too.” Which translates to—Not quite as good as the one I just exclaimed over but it will do. Then I can always tell if they are definitely feeling like this one is falling flat because they will usually say, ” Is this one done?” Which gives me an out because I can say, ” not really, not quite” even though I did considered it finished till that very moment. What I love is that anyone, including gallery owners, don’t exactly know why something is good or not (this understanding falls in the artist’s court) but they do have a fully functioning set of sensibilities and when something is powerful it moves them and they say “Wow, I love this” and when they aren’t they say “ Is this done yet?”
So I then have a long look at what I might consider done and they consider not quite done and sometimes I am right and sometimes not. The important thing in all of this is understanding that often we can’t be objective entirely about our work. Usually the more we struggle, the longer we spend on something the more easily we can lose sight of what exactly the work feels and looks like, even to us. The gift of objectivity – and it truly is a gift – sometimes can be summoned from the maker of the work. However sometimes true objectivity can come in the form of someone else who wanders into the studio stops in front of your latest painting and says “Wow” or regrettably, “Is this one finished?”
the founder of Art2Life.
With over 20 years experience as a working artist and educator, I’ve developed a systematic approach that brings authenticity, spontaneity and joy back into the creative process.