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The Bliss of the Abandoned Painting

Between giving up on a painting but before throwing it in the fire, there’s a mental space of blissful and absolute freedom. You’ve reached a point that otherwise might take years of meditation and therapy.

It’s at this point you’ve abandoned a painting but that abandonment has released all expectations. You truly do not care about the outcome.

This is the perfect place to be creating anything. Because it’s not that you’ve abandoned all of your artistic principles on the side of the road. Instead, you’ve stopped taking yourself so damn seriously. You’ve disbanded the illusion that you’re meant for greatness and that this piece, yes THIS PIECE HERE, may be the beginning of a whole chain of paintings that is what finally lands you with a solo show in the MET. 



Do you feel how heavy that baggage is? How burdensome that kind of hope is for a piece of work? Gross. Put it down if you can.

And for me, most days, I’m pretty good about not spinning up and out on that front. But I don’t realize HOW MUCH the end product thought I still hold until I come upon a painting I truly give two cares about. (In the best way. Again. This is not malice zero care. Those end up ash.)

While working through my seven, I’ve been pulling out past abandoned pieces to try and see if I have an opinion about literally anything. It’s hard to know what steps to take next if you don’t know what you've responded to well in the past. The only way for me to really know is to see something and then respond yay or nay. Or oo or ah or oof or ugh, whatever. 


It doesn’t always come out as a clear yes or no. It’s more like tiny ripples of curiosity moving steadily through a room, upturning cushions looking for keys. In the process, finding a whole host of other things you never realized you had misplaced from that library book to oh no, an apple. At least, best guess, an apple.)

So these pieces have sparked a lot of thought. And as I slowly walk through this process I’m beginning to pick up the very corners of why maybe some of this was abandoned in the first place.

That feels incredibly exciting. I feel like I’m getting a software upgrade that is fixing all sorts of holes. 

But it’s also opening new challenges.

A painting I’d abandoned hope on, I added some left over paint and oh what a mess but who cares. Then I pulled it out last night b/c I wasn’t yet ready to move ahead on the seven (ugh. That’s a whole other discussion) 

Having steps in a process can be helpful for more than just freshly gessoed boards. It’s a series of steps that you have some confidence creates a sense of cohesion. All paintings need that at some point. I’ve been thinking about it as a tool for the first steps, but pulling out the abandoned painting, I recognized it's also incredibly important to have that for an abandoned painting. And the results are totally totally different. 



That realization has truly sent a thrill through me. A few days ago I was worried that this process (once established) would prove boring. What if I only have a few paintings from it and then everything looks the same?

That fear will probably continue to pop up. But last night I realized how deep I can take this purely from a curiosity standpoint. I have so many questions for it. How far it can expand in any direction of color and under-layers and this and that. I’m so damn eager to try the next set of 5 or 7. I want to just get STARTED.


But I haven’t actually finished my goal. My goal for the 7 is to bring them to completion. Or far enough that one or two are what feels completed. (Along with the goals of them being optimistic and analogous colors with low contrast of light values etc etc.)

COMPLETING is probably the MAIN goal to the project. I HAVE to do that thought work. I have to push through that part which has averted me for basically three years at this point.

Oh but back to the abandoned painting. The main point of this.  I recognize the absolute joy in that “super don’t care” stage because it disappeared in two seconds later. I added some stamping and some scribbles and bam. It moved back across whatever threshold that houses paintings I give a care about.



And they will. That will happen. I want it to happen. I want to be experiencing paintings that I enjoy and care about and have importance to me. I want to have skin in my own game.

But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with a lot of management. Mostly of oneself.

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