I have a solo show in about 5 months. It is going to be at Caldwell Snyder Gallery,in San Francisco, opening June 4th, 2014. What will I make? Will it be more interesting than what I’ve made before? There is a certain amount of worry beginning to pile up, of course, in not knowing. If the work is going to be any good at all then I really shouldn’t have any idea, at this point, of what it should look like. It should be brand-new, but nonetheless it’s scary and the prospect of making 15 paintings that I have not seen before is daunting.
Every year I revisit my process and the way I work. I have realized that little and often is the best way for me to get things done. I try to paint three hours a day without stopping, keeping my attention and focus very high. Sometimes this goes to four or five hours but I try to do at least three hours. I write down how long I’ve spent to keep track of how I am doing. I also have a rough idea as to how long it will take me to make each painting. I add up all those hours ahead of time and I come up with a big old number and then I divide by the number of art making days I have – this gives me an approximate idea of a schedule, some answer to what it will take to make this work and if it is even possible.
This is, after all, a practice and when I think about it that way it seems to take the stress off of me. I know if I just show up and not worry too much about the enormous task at hand, in this case creating 15 paintings, that I will be able to figure it out. Bit by bit. The point isn’t to be super efficient, but rather to enjoy the process rather than being stressed all the time.
I love the idea that “your vocation should be your vacation”. I tell myself, as well as my students, your art making should be the best time of your day and that it’s a lovely escape from the predictable routine of your life. It is also a time when you can feel more like yourself than at any other time in the day. This is a big clue – or rather a reminder – to make sure I am staying true to making work that really pleases me. If I am excited and love what I am in pursuit of, then it is fairly certain the emerging work will be personal and unique when it is finished. It will automatically fit in with the rest of my work, even though hopefully it is different than what has come before. But mostly, it should feel like me, to me.
Oddly, I notice I have the most difficulty painting when I’m not painting. When I actually get to the studio and I pick up a paintbrush and I start mixing the paint things always get easier. It’s almost like the hardest part of making art is when you’re not making art. The more you do the more you do but also the inverse is true the less you do the less you do.
Have you ever stopped for a few months only to realize that it has suddenly become super challenging to get back into it?
With inspiration, Nicholas