Well.

My last blog post was in December, more than three months ago.

It’s been busy, to say the least. A massive collaboration from January to now (March) resulted in a LOT of painting of new pieces and several large exhibits of my work. Most waking hours in these months were devoted to the project, to the point of being able to focus on little else, including this blog.

It’s not that I didn’t have anything new to say. I did. Nor was it a lack of interest, since I kept thinking I should get back to posting on here. The problem was that I wan my post to be engaging, with pictures and captions and links. Writing the blog is one thing. Adding the little details I think make it worthwhile sort of multiplies the time it takes to put an entry.

Writing a blog post can take a few hours or a few days, neither I which I could really spare in the last few months.

Then there’s the extra stuff:

What images do I want to use to illustrate what I’m talking about?

Find the images, upload them, set display parameters, add captions, all one at a time. Believe it or not, that’s a couple hours of work right there. Even it the article took a few hours itself to write, with the images, that a good chunk of a day gone, minimum.

Any links, like to YouTube or other articles?

Adding hyperlinks is tedious and slow a process, taking a chunk of time to do each. There’s at least a few more hours gone.

The possible scenario has this occupy an entire day. Given the bulk of my schedule, even that was asking too much. I was missing family and friends because of the work needed to do the art project, and they were all supportive, but to stop for a day to post on here would have been criminal and a tad selfish. It was best to simply not do anything with the blog until I had a bit more time.

I’m writing this post because this run of paintings and exhibits has finished (there will be more to come!) and I feel I have time to stop and catch up. I’m not planning to illustrate this post, either. It’s the most technically simple post I can produce: just me writing stuff. Notice the utter lack of bells and whistles? Yeah. I much prefer having images attached!

The work I put in to the art and their exhibition was incredibly rewarding on so many levels. I hope to write about it all soon in some detail. The reward of all my effort, too, was a week of solitude with family and friends at a cottage with no internet. Had there been any, I might have posted earlier. Upon my return to civilization, I was back at it, waste deep in work and without much time to spare. Again, it was all worth it, but the blog was set aside in order to make room in my tightly crammed schedule.

To give you a better idea of what some of my days were like, it was getting up in the morning and after a quick breakfast, start sketching out a painting on the canvas, in pencil. Then start painting. And not stopping for more than the shortest breaks of 10 or 15 minutes, enough time for acrylic paint to dry, rest a moment (since it’s very focussed work, which I’ll talk about in a sec) and then get back at it. I had music playing and would get into a groove as I worked and hours would fly by. The paintings took shape and most of the time I was happy with the progress. Sometimes I was not, but the luxury of simply stopping was not available. I had imposed a quota of sorts, a number of paintings I felt I needed to complete for each exhibit. There was no slacking off. If part of the painting, like face or a building or whatever, wasn’t coming together and looked like crap, I kept at it until it got to where I needed it to be.

I mentioned focus and this is where it could be either the best thing in the world or my worst enemy. The mind is working on several levels while painting. Part of the mind is thinking about the paint, the brush strokes (every. single. one), the overall composition and all the elements of design, while the other part is locked into the music, because for me, the music sets the internal pace the other part needs to work efficiently. When both parts are locked and working together, it’s sublime. For me, this is the zone. I don’t always need music for it. When I write, I prefer quiet. I can paint to silence, too, I don’t *need* the music, per se.

The problem with focus is: when the image I’m painting isn’t coming together and I keep at it, it becomes fuelled by frustration rather than internal rhythms (those parts of the mind that also like having the music around). It becomes mental wrestling match as my mind works even hard to figure out what I’m doing wrong and what I need to do right. I try to simplify it. I go back to the basics, what I was taught by my trusted high school art teacher.

Paint what you see.

A curve here. A shadow there. The shapes. The textures.

I take a break (10 minutes) and come back with a fresher eye. I go at it again. If the part of the painting I’m wrestling with starts to come together as I need it to, great. There is much relief. If not, I try to put the frustration aside and repeat the process until I get it.

As I’m painting, I take two longer breaks for lunch and dinner. I watch something online as I eat or surf the internet. I don’t think about the painting. I give myself 30 minutes, maybe 45, then I’m back at it.

One of two things happens by this point:

1) I see the end in sight. Only a few areas left in the piece to paint and it’s done!

Or

2) I realize there is a lot left to do. It’s not a discouraging thought. It requires a bit of planning. How much more can I accomplish in the next section, I ask myself?

If I see the end of the piece is close, I go for it. If not, I pace myself till I feel that’s enough for the day and hope I get the rest done tomorrow.

All of that is a day of me painting. Many of the pieces I did for the recent project were done in a day or a day and a half. This seems to boggle people’s minds. I’m not bragging. It’s hard. I can’t do it for an extended period of time, churning out art daily. I tried to push myself to get 8 new pieces painted in 10 days straight and, with this being near the end of the creative process on this project, I think I hit my limit. I ended up with 6 in 10 days straight. If I wasn’t painting to the clock and calendar, who knows what I might have achieved (maybe more, maybe less). I had a very real deadline in those last days of actual painting, that of leaving for the cottage to be with my family and friends. I didn’t want to bring my artwork up there because aside from the logistical headache of trying to bring all the supplies up, I knew deep down that I probably wouldn’t get anything done up there and to attempt to would ruin the time with my loved ones. So it had to be done before I left. I was painting right up to the late evening of the night before I left and when I declared the piece done, the pressure withdrawing was sweeter as feeling as ever. It’s always great to set away from the painting when it’s done, to savour the accomplishment of creating a thing. That evening, you’d think it would be amplified by the sheer total number I’d completed, but no. It was sweet, but not any more sweet. The physical relief was greater, given how hard and how long I’d been at it.

So, yeah, that’s what I’ve been doing!

What’s to come?

Well, my next project is finishing a book I’ve been putting together for a long, long time, with a friend/co-author.

More on that later.

Advertisements