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Lessons Learned

Tonight I did a countdown on my calendar. There are ninety-nine days (including tonight) until I will have completed this three hundred and sixty-five day project. It has been quite a challenge coming up with the time, the projects, and the inspiration, but I have struggled through, not always happy with what I produced, but always happy that I did indeed produce something. In truth I have created more art in the last two hundred sixty-seven days than I have in my entire life, and I think many of the pieces are the best work I’ve ever done. There are a few projects that I phoned in, there are two missed days, one due to illness, one from absolute exhaustion and lack of time, and those damn fairies. I’ve actually assigned myself an extra day (in case you were counting), on April 13th, the one year anniversary of the first project, I want to create something special. I don’t know what as of yet, I don’t even know what medium I will choose to use, but I want to mark the occasion with a piece of art. I also want to challenge myself in these next ninety-nine days to push myself even harder. I still have Jessica’s portrait to finish, and I won’t feel that this project is a success without it. As for tonight, my title says it all, “Lessons Learned”. I took on another orphan tonight. A few years ago while at a Starbucks in San Francisco I noticed a young woman sitting with her back to me. I love Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks”, it’s a favorite of mine. Something about the singular woman sitting at the counter was reminiscent to me of the solitude and loneliness that Hopper’s painting evokes in me. I snapped a few photos of her and put them in my “someday I’ll paint again” file. It must have been at least a year before I looked at that photo again. I sketched it out on a canvas and began an oil painting. I didn’t last long. I had the figure a little more than half painted, had given up completely on the background, and I had decided that it wasn’t good enough. It went into the pile of half done work, my orphans. I hadn’t yet learned my “lessons”.

Lesson 1. One of the things that this project has taught me is that my art isn’t meant to be a xerox copy. Art is meant to evoke feeling, my paintings don’t need to look like an exact copy of a photograph. I need to detach from perfection and paint with emotion.

Lesson 2. Texture, texture, texture. My old work was so one-dimensional. I’ve learned to enjoy painting without feeling the need to smooth out the rough edges. I’ve done a couple of paintings using only my palette knife, they are among my favorites.

Lesson 3. Art doesn’t have to be finished in a day. I’ve learned to let work evolve, taking time to let the work speak, the brush speak, and to not rush things.

Lesson 4. This is a big one. Walk away! I have ruined more pieces in my artistic life from not leaving well enough alone, often seeing something really beautiful happening only to second guess myself and destroy it in the process.

Lesson 5. (If you are sick of hearing me talk about my wonderful husband you can skip this one) Dan is amazing. I have always known that he loves me, but in the last several months he has proved to be my biggest supporter, cheerleader, and all-round best partner I could have. He is always there to make sure that I have the time to work on my art. He cooks meals, falls asleep on the couch waiting for me, and is willing to lend a hand on anything I need. He has encouraged me through the tough days, and helps me with honest criticism, and even posted for me when I had pneumonia last June.

My orphan is still a work in progress tonight. When I took this painting out of my studio tonight it spoke volumes about how much I had given up on myself, how I gave in to my feelings of inadequacy, how often I half-finished things in fear of judgement. It was flat, it was lifeless, I think I was feeling a little of that about myself. I unfortunately didn’t take a photo before I started working today, but here is my solitary woman in progress. She will have to wait a few days to dry until I can finish, but I’m really pleased with where we are both headed.1 5 14

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