I’m beginning to look at past work as not just a guide from where I’ve come but as a way finder, forward.
Each painting is painted at a specific moment in time. It’s THAT artist with THAT idea with THOSE materials and THAT level of skill encapsulated in time through paint.
It’s fascinating to see the ideas I’ve tried on and put away. Half formed. More fully formed later. It’s like listening to a recorded conversation and just thinking about how the people were feeling at the time of their discussion.
They are also a really useful catalog for more ideas to explore.
So much of my daily painting (especially when it’s truly daily painting) is trying on ideas. Some of those are intentional. (Practice mixing purple and use it in this painting) and some of it is a pure response to the inspiration of the reference. And while the painting itself may be complete, the ideas in the painting aren’t.
No idea ever is.
I’m going to start a series. A small body of work around some specific artistic intentions. And as I hone in on specifics, I can feel myself struggle against the resistance that creates.
“Don’t LIMIT yourself, do EVERYTHING,” I feel my brain crying.
It does that any time I decide to limit my number of colors or settle in on a particular painting surface for a while.
I’ve learned to ignore it. Or talk to it gently and then ignore it. But looking at my library of previous work, I’m so deeply excited to get to go deeper into ideas started months or years ago and then continued on further. I’m excited to get to spend some time there.
And on days I think, “What’s the point of working in a series. I want to go PLAY with OTHER ideas,” I’ll maybe spend a day painting with random colors and materials to express that side of me. And then I’ll go back to doing the deeper work of spending time in one place listening.