Saturday, February 13, 2016

Lean into the challenge

In art, it often helps to have a problem that needs solving. A challenge to tackle can make your work more interesting, and should be embraced. If you can lean into the challenge and see the problem as an opportunity (to borrow the language of business-speak), take the time to analyze what is and isn't working, and finally roll up your sleeves and fix what's wrong, you will often end up with a much better end product then had the issue never arose to begin with. The complexity of having solved a problem will often translate to the viewer (with no words needed), who can be drawn in by the subtle tensions that appear in the work of art as you stop, stare, consider, and re-approach whatever it is that is bothering you.

Although as artists we should strive to master our craft and execute our skills quickly, we risk falling into a trap of monotony if we are never challenged by the colors, composition, meaning, or technical execution of our work. As someone important once said, the moment your works stops challenging you is the moment you should quit and find something else to do with your life. So although having a problem can feel overwhelming, bring us to tears or anger, or cause us to freeze up if the solution isn't immediately apparent, if we can power through the anxiety and keep working, the outcome will be worth the struggle. And the less of a fight you put up with yourself or your art, the better off you will be. Say to yourself, "This problem is actually an opportunity. I should be excited by this challenge, because it will ultimately make this a stronger piece. Don't panic, Self, just calm down and look at things objectively. What do I need to do to fix this?". It may take a while to come to a conclusion, so give yourself the time you need to do so. Once you have it, roll up your sleeves and get to work.

I had several challenges arise while working on this painting. The biggest challenge is the actual support: rag paper. There are different absorbencies on this painting due to the way I prepped the paper, which made it challenging to layer paint on later. I almost panicked while working on the right butt cheek of the female figure (the paint wouldn't move the way I wanted it to!), but caught myself and said, "Lean into the challenge", took a deep breath, and was honest with myself about what was wrong. I knew the paper and the layers of supports were working against me, but that I had to be strong and apply the acrylic paint boldly and with confidence, in order to make the figures pop. I had to work quickly, so as to not tear a hole in the surface. I also knew I was committed to the colors [the quinacridone crimson and the phthalo blue (green shade) are high staining and once you've applied them to the support, you can't really turn back], so the only way to go was forward. This approach allowed me to get through the stressful pause, and I'm now quite happy with how the painting is turning out. It's not quite done, but it's almost there.

Working title: "The Dance of Love". 26 x 20 1/4 inches, mixed media (India ink and acrylic) on rag paper.

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