Before – Almost the very beginning of the YLC, and the NOW version
My esteemed art instructor, Homare Ikeda of the Denver Art Students League, said a startling thing one afternoon as we all gathered around to hear his thoughts. He said something so obvious that it took my breath away. Without quoting his exact words, but close, he said that every painting that you will ever do is already inside of you. You just need to find it, to get to it, and reveal it to the world. Sort of the same idea as when Michelangelo said that when he sculpted he was just chipping away the outside marble to find the angel inside. If you believe all that, as I most assuredly do, then creating is a search, digging deep to find the essence.
One of the most effective exercises you can perform, as an artist or writer or general creator of things is to walk away from your current work in progress and leave it alone for a while. Forget about it. Take a vaca. Dwell on other things. Stop the momentum and rest. Whether this is done in frustration from being “stuck” or just because you are getting weary and your miserable self needs refreshing, it is almost always a beneficial thing to do. Don’t do it when you are “in flow” and hot on the trail of something big, of course. Do it when things get a little rough around the edges and you are feeling battle fatigue, and your search for the essence is difficult.
Of course this is the basic principle behind the Year Long Canvas project which I am only 6 months into at his point. It is a forced exercise in walking away and calming things down so that you can walk back into it and “see it again for the first time.” That “seeing” is supposed to reveal what should be done next. Sometimes an instantaneous action comes to me – other times it takes a bit of study to discover what action would be an enhancement – because of course enhancing the painting is what I am supposed to do. I don’t want to do something to it that bombs it right back into the artistic stone ages. This painting that has become such a weird part of my life. This painting that I sort of love at times, like right now, but that I may hate on some other day. This painting that haunts my thoughts. This part of me, slowly being uncovered from deep inside.
The final version of the YLC is absolutely inside me waiting to be revealed. My challenge is to coincide the finding of it with the end of its year. That seems a bit forced to me – what if I find its final version long before that day comes? Maybe the one year birthday of this painting will happen sooner, as much a contradiction as that is. Will I have the courage to refuse to go on, taking control of its destiny and making the decision to stop? Is that Good Karma or Bad? What would the art Buddha say?