Alaskan Artist - Elise Tomlinson
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12/12/2006: "Pain of losing artistic "voice""

I’ve been thinking about solitude lately.

“The state or quality of being alone or remote from others.”
“A lonely or secluded place.”

It has been a kind of unconscious theme in my work for many years. Remember how one of my collectors resold several pieces because she had seen the "strong single women" depicted as too solitary, and realized she didn’t want to be surrounded by that vision of her future? My reaction:

“It's an interesting concept, that the artwork we respond to and surround ourselves with is in some ways dictated by how we see our place in the world. I never really thought much about how my women are always quietly alone, I guess that’s how I see myself and in some ways maybe it *is* who I am.”

Being alone and independent is comfortable for me. There’s no one counting on me for anything, no one to disappoint, and no one else I have to depend on for my happiness or well being. Letting go of that isn’t easy, in fact, it’s really scary.

Of course, I may be getting worked up over nothing; I just feel discombobulated and I know I wouldn’t fret so much if I still painted regularly. However, I believe you should actually know what you want to say before you open your mouth. My brushes have been quiet because I don’t know how to visually represent the confusion I’m feeling about my new non-loner status.

I haven’t felt this way since I was in art school. I already knew the proper *techniques* but I had an instructor who pushed us to *say* something; and to not be 100% literal. He wanted us to use symbolism, color, and design to represent feelings and create narrative beyond simple still lifes or landscapes.

I used to sit there for hours obsessing over what I wanted to say...trying to figure out what was really important to me. And then, how to show that in a single image. Every piece I created felt like having blood drawn…painful, leaving me a little weak and nauseated. After each one I’d fear I’d never be able to think of another.

As an adult, and as my “unique style” has developed…I’ve come up with a system for creating works that produces a seemingly endless supply of possibilities. Sure, I could sit down tonight and easily start 5 new paintings with the same general theme and style as I’ve been doing for the past several years. And the colors and designs would be (hopefully) interesting and pleasing to look at. But LAZY! I’d rather not be working at all, than to be cranking out piece after piece when it no longer feels honest.

Or am I being crazy and unrealistic? Is it always better to be working?

Replies: 10 Comments

on Tuesday, December 12th, elaine K bond said

What a wonderful and honest post Elise! I think that you're getting better and better! In the past years, I Often smiled at your thoughts coz I've found my self in the same état d'esprit as you were... 2 months ago, I've erased all of my websites and cancelled my exhibitions for 2007. Felt like repeating myself! Accepting to be loved is the buisness (in my case), I've always paint or play guitar or what ever artistic thing to be loved! But at the same time I always enjoyed to be on my own in the "creative process".(I envy how Daniel N. is so inspired by his own life: travel + family + philosophy and being able to create such wonderful work!)...Today,I'm about to accept that I'm loved , secured and after a long period of dryness I'm starting to paint again but in a completly different style.
I think that I'm ready to share my life , even my "secret painter's side" and I'm sure that my work will be influenced in a good way coz I'm gonna paint just because I want to.
Recently when visiting your blog and there were no new post, I just thought, "well, I miss her, but she is probably having a good time, she's maybe finding her life..."

on Tuesday, December 12th, Elise said

Hi Elaine! It's great to hear from you. Your comment about fearing "repeating" yourself and your desire to paint in a completly different style, strikes a chord.

I'm not sure if my style needs to change exaclty, but the message maybe (if there is one).

I am "finding my life", and it sounds like you are as well...yeah for both of us!

on Wednesday, December 13th, Stephanie said

"There’s no one counting on me for anything, no one to disappoint, and no one else I have to depend on for my happiness or well being." so you are telling me that if you don't go to work for 3 days no one would notice or care, if you don't finish your commission for your dad, he won't be disappointed; did you make your car, build your house, grow your own food? if we don't look at the person who serves us, does that mean we're alone and independant? we're connected whether we want to accept it or not... and it's good to be a part of a whole :) your paintings may have a solitary figure but she's no more alone than any of us... she just happens to be by herself at that moment...maybe she's working on finding her life.... :) and let's not forget the pair dancing on top of the world :)
p.s. and for the record we'd all be disappointed if you stopped blogging!!!!

on Wednesday, December 13th, dad said

Aman :confused:

on Friday, December 15th, Elise said

Hi Stephanie, thanks for your observations...there *are* a lot of people who count on me and many people on whom I count as well...but that general sense of interdependence isn't really what I was getting at. And I have no intention of stopping blogging, though I may go through fits and starts.

Hi dad...were you saying Amen? or, A Man?

on Friday, December 15th, stephanie said

didn't mean to derail your thread! figured i'd just be one of many voices - ask again and i'll be quiet :)

on Tuesday, December 19th, greg said

Hi Elise - for me, it's hard to move ahead too far, if I have that nagging feeling I havent done justice to past works. IOW if there are half finished works that were worth starting, they are worth finishing.

I confess I haven't peeked at your galleries in awhile, but are there any paintings you could play around with and finish up? Maybe as you "tuck them into bed" you can muse on future styles you'd like to try!?

... and there are always cute bears and eagles and whales to paint for a change!! :hehe:

on Tuesday, December 19th, greg said

PS - still going to the life drawing sessions? How are the hands & feet coming along?? :)

on Tuesday, December 19th, greg said

PPS - just took a gander at your In Progress gallery.

Pardon me while I swoon at the incrediblenessality .... wow! those works so deserve to live some more ... send 'em to me and I'll finish them!!! ;)

on Wednesday, December 20th, Elise said

Hey Stephanie, you didn't derail the thread at all, no worries!

And Greg, finishing up committments is an excellent idea. I have one commission in general that I can't seem to finish and it's making me crazy.

Also, I haven't updated my online galleries in awhile but I've already had the show exhibiting those paintings in the "In Progress" area. I should take current photos and move them to a new gallery and start a new "in progress" gallery...that might help as well.

Also, I'm still (mostly) going to life drawing. I miss it from time to last night because my sweetie took me to a prime rib dinner at the Yacht Club (how cool is that!???)

I haven't been practicing my hands and feet that much, but that's a good idea. I should use the life drawing time to pick the poses that best highlight hands and feet and then just practice drawing them.

Thanks for the reminder!