Alaskan Artist - Elise Tomlinson
Home Artist Blog About Me Life in Alaska Purchase Site Index Speak
Home » Archives » January 2006 » Binge Painting

[Previous entry: "Give the people what they want???"] [Next entry: "A good day"]

01/27/2006: "Binge Painting"

It was a simple plan. Stop exhibiting and paint *as long as needed* to produce the best work of my life. I’ve always worked under a deadline and I can’t remember the last show I hung that wasn’t at least a little wet. I’ve always thought that if only I had the time...

I did worry I’d lose my work ethic but the opposite has happened...I seem to be starting new paintings left and right...and leaving them half finished…or I concentrate on a few of them too much working them over and over again with no end in sight. I mean, I know I ask this constantly but I still honestly don't know: how do you *really* know when you’re finished?

I keep thinking: This really can’t be the very best I can do is it? The ones that are half finished have a certain spontaneity I tend to lose the longer I work on them…but they don’t look finished. The ones that are the most finished look a little too smooth and controlled…tight even…I keep wracking my brain, how can I make this painting just a little bit better? I’m doing the artistic equivalent of “wishful makeuping”.

Replies: 9 Comments

on Friday, January 27th, Kasia said

I know the problem - when I write something i am never sure if "this"is the end. sometimes I just must say"stop - that's it".

on Friday, January 27th, marja-leena said

Elise, I don't know if this will help... Many prolific artists, like Picasso, make a lot of work of variable quality. Just the act of making, and making, more and more, is a way of working and developing ideas. Some of these build up or prepare for the masterpieces. I realized this again when I saw a recent exhibition of Picasso here in Vancouver. So, I think it is important to keep doing the work, look at it, put it away, take it out again later to study again. Some pieces may not be so great but they will have been a bridge to the better ones.

on Friday, January 27th, Elise said

I do some writing as well (though I'm absolutely no good at it) and I know what you mean Kasia, the experience is very much the same when you're editing a piece.

And thanks Marja-leena, that's an excellent way of looking at it and you're totally right. I mean, painting is fun so I should feel free to do as many as I like and some may never turn out as any good, but while I'm working on it I might think of something that works better I can try in the next one.

I don't know where this feeling came from that everything has to be finished and be as good as the best painting I've ever done, because that's not realistic.

Some will be terrible and that's ok...but we'll increase our odds of doing our best work if we produce a lot of it, then I can spend more time on the ones that really feel right.

I remember long ago I got to see one of Picasso's exhibits in France and I remember thinking (wow, some of this stuff was pretty awful) of course, he was always on the cutting edge so I suppose he deserves a little more leeway the rest of us!

on Friday, January 27th, greg said

Something I just read about visual storytelling I think applies to painting and the intutive inner-judge: "The story will always tell you were to go."

Now I've only painted about 15 paintings in my life, and always had the same problem, but oils are so forgiving I dont believe there's a danger in overworking it really. Underworking is my problem ;)

Step back, then step in again! It's a dance. Get to where you're enjoying all the harmonies and line and colors, etc and voila! .. the music stops for you and it's settled! Maybe the mind wants the music to keep going, but the heart knows it's finished - take a breath - get a drink - and band starts up a new number!

Plus I see no shame t'all in those great new works you're getting started! :)

on Friday, January 27th, Elise said

thanks greg, the problem for me is consistency. Sometimes I know 100% when something is done, but other times that intutive inner-judge must be on holiday.

on Friday, January 27th, Mike said

Your best worK?

How much truth is on the head of your paint brush?

on Friday, January 27th, Elise said

I guess I don't understand your comment.

on Saturday, January 28th, Jackie said

E: I suppose some painters just go right to the canvas, and some of their paintings are more 'sketches'. It's like anything else that requries skill: the more you practice, the better you get, and the more your ideas develop. Some ideas don't lead to a finished piece. Many artists explore themes or obsess over one or two motifs during their entire life. Others switch from one medium to another when they've explored one to their satisfaction. Still others hop between sculpture, painting, drawing, etc. I guess it's easy to get caught up in lots of paintings/drawings/ideas, and feel like we aren't going anywhere. Maybe you're just going through a whirlwind of a spell! :O

on Saturday, January 28th, Elise said

That sounds like me! I'll just think of it as a whirlwind and not worry about it, for now, until I start freaking out again.