All artists run into times when nothing is working and ideas are few—that special misery described as a block or a dry spell. Agnes Martin described her process as waiting for inspiration. She said that she simply kept her mind still until inspiration finally showed up. Then, she claimed, she "couldn't put a brush wrong". Admirable. Yet years in a ceramics studio have taught me to continue to work, sometimes switching media or more often, just forging ahead into the dark unknown. 

It’s a testing ground, a chance to try things out. New ideas may not emerge in a coherent way and I’m certainly not an objective judge of what’s going on. Sometimes ideas have to be lured into being. Not this; not that. 

A few years ago I painted over a piece seventeen times. This was no process of small adjustments—it was essentially seventeen different paintings all on top of each other. I worked steadily for months and months. Studio visitors would say “Oh! It’s done now!" But I knew it wasn’t. I just didn’t know where it was trying to go.

Eventually my painting resolved. When that happened, the feeling of conclusion landed irrevocably—no questions about “Is it finished?” I learned a lot from that painting. Interestingly, all the prior paintings were there in the final version--whether in smears of paint, textures or as an energetic presence with a great deal of feeling. Nothing wasted.

I still paint over work from time to time, looking for the thing that wants to emerge and to make itself known. I am usually surprised—and more than a little thrilled by the challenging, mysterious, difficult, and transforming process that is this thing called "painting".

Above: "Deep Blue" 36x36" 2017. Exhibited in "Bluets" at Gear Box Gallery, Oakland, CA. Sold.


 

 

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12/9/2020

All artists run into times when nothing is working and ideas are few—that special misery described as a block or a dry spell. Agnes Martin described her process as waiting for inspiration. She said that she simply kept her mind still until inspiration finally showed up. Then, she claimed, she "couldn't put a brush wrong". Admirable. Yet years in a ceramics studio have taught me to continue to work, sometimes switching media or more often, just forging ahead into the dark unknown. 

It’s a testing ground, a chance to try things out. New ideas may not emerge in a coherent way and I’m certainly not an objective judge of what’s going on. Sometimes ideas have to be lured into being. Not this; not that. 

A few years ago I painted over a piece seventeen times. This was no process of small adjustments—it was essentially seventeen different paintings all on top of each other. I worked steadily for months and months. Studio visitors would say “Oh! It’s done now!" But I knew it wasn’t. I just didn’t know where it was trying to go.

Eventually my painting resolved. When that happened, the feeling of conclusion landed irrevocably—no questions about “Is it finished?” I learned a lot from that painting. Interestingly, all the prior paintings were there in the final version--whether in smears of paint, textures or as an energetic presence with a great deal of feeling. Nothing wasted.

I still paint over work from time to time, looking for the thing that wants to emerge and to make itself known. I am usually surprised—and more than a little thrilled by the challenging, mysterious, difficult, and transforming process that is this thing called "painting".

Above: "Deep Blue" 36x36" 2017. Exhibited in "Bluets" at Gear Box Gallery, Oakland, CA. Sold.