Many of you have seen the beginning of this new series: Map of Regrets. Diving into painting after teaching abroad reminded me that it may be useful to talk about the practical things that go into making a painting series.
Because my paintings require my undivided attention, after a time I feel anxiety building about all the dings, emails, lists, questions and bills I have ignored.
This is the first rule that helps calm this mounting anxiety:
I schedule breaks. I set a timer for 15-20 minutes, and respond to email in a focused way. Setting a beginning and end to this time (which can be repeated during the day) changes my feeling of being overwhelmed and tired, to calmness.
For meditation and painting times I turn off my iphone- so I have ordered an old fashioned twenty minute sand timer– inspired by my room in Solingen, Germany– Sabine's meditation room, where there was a sand timer on the altar.
Any of the other various tasks I have been avoiding– organization, bills, etc. – are made less daunting by scheduling 20 minutes intervals into the week.
In my classes, you have heard me talk about the benefit of working on several paintings at a time. (Working on one makes obsession nearly impossible to avoid).
Begin by putting down a layer of gesso. Below you can see three paintings with gesso applied to canvas (or you can buy them with gesso already applied). This practice is the same whether the surface is paper, canvas or wood.
Often I will include a rejected painting (bottom right) and gesso over it as well. (These steps are for acrylic painting).
Add an underpainting over the gesso, and begin to build up the surface. Below I have used house paint (less expensive and similar to acrylic) tinted with Golden acrylic to add a second layer.
It helps me to begin with a limited palette. Now I begin to play with adding color and detail- (above, right)– which may get covered over in the end, but it begins to give me a sense of the colors that I want to use. Mix your colors (beginning with only three) until you get a color that says yes!
VII. "The power of pause"
The last practical tip today is the most important, and we all know it, and forget it: the power of pause. In the midst of this week's painting, I needed to remember my own advice. I seem to be much more brilliant and receptive when I am asleep! Here is the dream that came to me:
I am in my studio working diligently. A woman bursts in the door, holding up a spool of linen thread in one hand and a needle in the other. She says to me: "Time to thread the needle?" And so I stop work to thread the needle.
When I woke up from this dream I said to myself, how brilliant is that image! In order to thread a needle one must stop everything and pay attention! (Remembering this helps modify the number of paintings I destroy by not pausing soon enough). So now– in the midst of upcoming exhibits and classes (Aspen/ Basalt Valley and Boise, ID)– I periodically call up this image:
Time to thread the needle?
Do you have practical tips or questions? I'd love to hear from you.