“I’m painting again!”
How many times have I said that over the years? I don’t think I want to know. But does it really matter? Probably not. (Okay, definitely not.)
So: I’m painting again–again. And I’ve finally given up on art as a career.
This doesn’t mean I will never have some sort of art career. I’m only 42, and with heredity and ever-improving medical technology on my side I’ve got at least another 50-60 years to go. A lot can happen in that time.
What it does mean is that I’ve given up fretting over how I’m going to make a successful art career happen. I’ve given up worrying whether a given piece of work, or series of works, will be saleable. I’ve given up thinking about sales, marketing, geting into galleries, opening an Etsy store, having prints made, finding exhibit space, taking decent photographs, getting into juried shows, or blogging about my work on a regular basis.
It means that I’m just going to paint–for its own sake, for my own enjoyment. I’m going to paint things that appeal to me, that I want to see on my own walls. I’m not going to try to exhibit or sell my work, even if it means I run out of wall space. And unless I really want to, I’m not even going to post pictures of what I’ve painted to my blog or discuss it with anyone.
I’m just going to paint.
And yes, I do struggle with this; after all, changing the mental habits of a lifetime doesn’t happen overnight. I still catch myself standing before my easel, uneasy about a decision I just made because I’m convinced it means that nobody will want to buy the result. I used to think that I had a merciless Inner Critic, but I’m beginning to think that it’s more like an Inner Consumer instead–the one who says, “I kinda like it, but it’s just too weird, ya know?”
The stuff I’ve been working on since the end of March is a lot of fun. I’ve taken to painting on apparel and upholstery fabric–some of it from Ikea, some of it cheap quilting cotton, with the rest scavenged from Goodwill and the clearance sections of local fabric stores. Some of it is so hideous I can’t imagine anyone wearing or furnishing their house with it. Sleazy polyester, vile color combinations, seizure-inducing patterns–this stuff begs to be painted over, so it’s not hard to jump in and start.
Unlike a pristine, white, carefully-prepared canvas, I can’t fuck it up. I can’t make it worse. Anything I do is bound to be an improvement, and as I start smearing paint around one thing leads to another and the next thing I know I’ve got something interesting. And it’s collaborative, in a strange way. Every textile, no matter how eye-bleedingly awful, has a designer behind it. Someone intentionally chose those colors and devised that pattern. Did they come up with such ugly fabric because they were incompetent? Color blind? Cynical? It doesn’t matter–I take their work, transform it, and make it mine.
I don’t have any finished work yet–but that’s okay too. Nobody’s out there waiting for it, or depending on me to produce it. So I skip from painting to painting as I feel like it; at the moment I’m actively working on six pieces, and have another half-dozen ready to go when I decide what direction I want to take. I think most of the paintings I’m working on will end up as the bases for collage, and I have some ideas about that simmering in my brain. But for now I’m content to keep playing. I haven’t been this active or this inspired as a painter in years, and sustaining that–rather than pushing for finished products–is what matters most to me right now.