Friday, 24 February 2012

The secret is Shepp

With the majority of the painting work for my next exhibition completed, I should be relaxed, happy and feeling satisfied. Sadly, nothing ever is quite that simple. This morning, in fact, I woke early from a series of anxiety dreams. Suddenly, it seemed, nothing was quite right. My paintings were all too similar, the names I gave them yesterday were clich├ęd, or just too damned gnomic. No one would want to buy them. I wouldn't be able to paint the last few pieces as I had intended.

The paranoia and the anxiety rolled on and not much work got done. It took the intervention of Megan and her years of experience with these things, to turn me from that path. She also pointed out that if I didn't feel that way sometimes, then I would be an "asshole" and I think she has a point.

Maybe I'm a stuck record when I mention this, but being an artist is hard. It may well seem from the outside that it is easy, just turning up and putting paint on canvas, yet the reality is far from this. Those sharp jags of self doubt are just part of that.

A little while after being turned from the dark side, I returned to my studio and managed to paint. Making even one good mark was a victory and I managed to make plenty.

As ever, music plays a key role in my motivation, as well as helping to tune out external influences. This allows me to dive inside for material, or for energy, or whatever it is that I need to paint. Today I chose a piece of music that has played that role probably more than any other.

At twenty minutes long, Yasmina, A Black Woman by Archie Shepp is a long and winding piece of avant garde jazz, recorded on his visit to France in 1969 and it is perfect for painting to. The long passages, the ebb and flow, the moments of intensity and especially the rhythms, nothing else quite works as well. It takes me to the place I need to go almost every time.

Right now I have a painting on my board that is rough, harsh marks and odd spaces. It is a good way from being complete but it is a start. In a little while, Archie Shepp will return to my ears and I will move and I will paint.

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