Disclaimer: This post has some “adult language”. Reader’s discretion advised. Just keeping it real.
I mentioned in my last blog post that at some point in the process of every one of my paintings, I experience the terror of feeling like I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m at that point now, with this one. I realized that I hadn’t built enough contrast between light and shadow, made some drastic color decisions, and impulsively used the wrong tools to execute them. It’s looking pretty ugly at the moment, and I have to tell you, this part just doesn’t seem to get easier. Appalled at my childish impulsivity, I just want to throw my hands in the air and go back to bed. My inner voice is beating me up pretty bad, saying, “You fucking amateur, you know better than this," and, "Good luck recovering from this one. Have fun explaining to people that you don't actually know how to paint.”
I feel it in my body, this visceral revulsion when I try to push through and keep working. I want to do everything except for paint. Anything. Bathe the dogs, write letters, go to the gym, eat, trim my nails, clean the kitchen, clean the garage, clean the bedroom, clean, clean, clean. And I hate cleaning. I feel like a kid insisting to her parents that she’s hungry, then thirsty, then needs three bedtime stories and finally starts asking endless existential questions to avoid being left alone in the dark. My personal way of avoiding feelings of distress has always been to narcotize with distractions, and I’m so good at making it seem (even to myself) like the floor being vacuumed right this very moment is extremely important and absolutely must be the top priority over everything else. It’s always something actually productive that really does need to be done at some point. It makes the self-deception easier.
I like to think that someday I’ll reach a point of mastery in my medium where this doesn’t happen anymore and I'm always the pure embodiment of confidence and poise, but I doubt that day will come. I think probably the only thing that gets better is my ability to argue with and soothe my inner-critic when it becomes fearful and abusive, and to quickly assess and address my mistakes. Right now, I feel like the worst painter in the world. My chest is tight and I’m afraid that every mark I make on this canvas from here on out is going to be wrong and make matters worse, but I have to remind myself that this is just a part of the process. It always has been.
Despite not feeling like it, I do know what I’m doing. I have the skill to bring it back, and I will. My mistakes often make my work better than it would have been otherwise, and I’ve been through this enough times to know that I’ll probably be feeling awesome about the whole thing by tonight. Until then, I'll be feeling bad feelings and doing the work anyway.
As always, it turned out fine, though it took about a week. And now I can stop obsessing over the face. Still working on those teeth, though.