Friday, 8 July 2011

All you need to do is turn up

Today has been a victory because I have painted. Today has not been a victory, although for slight more complicated reasons.

© 2011 Stewart Bremner
Mixed media on paper
Being an artist may seem to many an easy life: all one needs is to have a bit of talent, some technical skills, materials and a studio. From then onwards, one just turns up. Sadly, that's not the case. As an artist, as a painter, most of my professional working time is not spent painting. Rather, most of the time is spent thinking about art, looking at art and fretting about art. In particular, fretting about my own art.

When I making a painting well, the feeling is incomparable. It is sublime. It is what I live for, yet it is a fleeting moment. When I am not in that moment and the periods bookending it, doubt will all to frequently creep in. I doubt that I can ever break free of the painting the same idea ad nauseum ("how do I paint something new?"), I doubt that I will ever progress ("where do I go from here?") and I doubt whether I can, or even will, paint ever again.

© 2011 Stewart Bremner
Mixed media on paper
Painting is a balancing act. To do it well, an artist needs to walk the line between order and chaos, between head and heart and between joy and doubt. Artists use all their skills and their materials to walk that line and it is a line they walk almost always alone, because painting is mostly a solitary process. It is a process of reaching within, subject to and powered entirely by one's own energy. It is an incredibly personal mode of expression, where often as not one is laying bare ones inner-most being. To explore these depths, to pull out the material needed, to mine one's soul, is an intensive and tiring process that is simply not sustainable over lengthy periods of time. Those creative moments are then limited and, in the fallow periods that exist between them, the doubts bloom.

With the recent completion of my Life is the Process series, with nothing but a void of empty, gessoed paper in front of me, today I face these doubts. However, I painted, I made marks and for a while I lost myself in the work. I have started to address the question "Where do I go from here?", even though as yet I have no answer. And so I clutch desperately at my tube of cadmium orange and I stand in front of those sheets of gessoed paper and I wonder "How do I paint?"

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