“Take a Breath” 10×10, oil on canvas Buy Now
I remember one new year’s eve where I made a list of lofty resolutions: learn to speak French, work my way through every recipe in a fancy cookbook, search the earth to find the perfect life partner for my best friend, take up weightlifting at the gym, finally write my novel. You get the gist.
I can be, admittedly, overly ambitious. My painting challenges used to be in months that had 30, not 31 days (I know hardly a difference worth mentioning) but they used also to also be 30 tiny 6×6 paintings.
They were 30 6×6 paintings because I had discovered the painting a day movement, and that’s what all the artists did. I had fallen in love with Carol Marine’s still lifes and she always worked small. It felt like the only way to do it.
Without the structure I learned from other artists, I don’t think I ever would have started. I needed parameters, rules. I needed a framework within which to work.
Chapter 5 of Art in Fear is called “Finding Your Work” which, for me, has been the natural progression from “finding other artists work and doing what they do.” I make bigger paintings now even when I’m trying to do one a day. I don’t even attempt still life, not because I am not moved by viewing it, but because I know it’s not my work to create.
Sometimes finding my work means I get too ambitious. I’ve caught myself more than once this month thinking about add-ons to my painting a day inspired by the group taking on the 31 day challenge with me: What if next time I also write a poem every day? Do a yoga practice in the morning before I paint, work on a piece of fiction, clean out my studio, one squeezed out paint tube at a time? What if I tackle large scale portraits of every female artist whose work I’ve been inspired by and then write an essay detailing their influence?
Today I’m reminded to slow down a little, the way I am every time I watch cardinals at the feeder in my backyard. Catch my breath. I want to make big paintings based on smaller ones, but my little house was built in the 50s–expansive closets were not yet in vogue, and 31 days is a lot of paintings to store until they find their homes.
Today’s painting I envisioned as bigger, more wild and free, but it’s kind of medium, and a little tame. I know it’s lessons are part of this journey towards finding the work that is uniquely mine. Small steps are still steps, and they keep me actually moving towards some thing instead of living in plentiful but unrealized fantasies.