Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Getting Back to Painting

I have been away from painting for most of the past month.  I taught three cold wax and oil workshops and had two exhibitions, one in Edmonton at Bugera Matheson Gallery and another in Guelph that runs until the end of the month at Renann Isaacs Contemporary Art.  I guess that's why I haven't had much time in my studio.

Sometimes I need to ease my way back into my studio work by playing.  I wrote about Maintaining the Spirit of Play in a post almost exactly two years ago.  I guess the same issues  continue to circle around and around.

A major component of play is  surrender.   I call it the Art of Surrender because it's difficult to explain and often difficult to accomplish.  You know when you've achieved it because you can feel it.  It's a huge relief.  Surrender literally means to stop fighting.  To stop fighting with yourself and the natural flow of life.  It's not about inaction, it's about working with that energy of surrender to take action.  When we are in control mode, it feels like paddling upstream, fighting the current.  The canoe is going nowhere.  What if you pull your paddle out of the water and let the canoe turn around and go with the current instead?  Now you are in the energy of surrender.  It's a whole different feeling.

One suggestion is to work fast and loose on many panels or sheets of paper.  On the small works above, I  used 8x10"  Multimedia Artboard.  It's a lovely stiff resin-coated paper. I can use oil paints on the paper panels without gessoing them.   Using oils and cold wax medium, I mixed a blue and brown together to make a dark colour,  I mixed  some greys, a couple of browns and a warm white colour. I taped several of the paper panels to boards and began to play quickly and freely.  I limited my time so that I would play and not let my mind get into the action. I had no intention of showing them to anyone, but here I am, posting them.  I think it's an interesting topic to discuss: how to get back in your studio again after a hiatus and how to get back through play and surrender.

 When you have a show, it's easy to be influenced by what people say, either positive or negative, to get swept up in sales-if the work sells should I keep painting that way?  If the work doesn't sell, is that a sign that I should change my way of working? My mind and my ego want to jump in and get involved in helping me out. Taking a break is not a bad idea after a show. 

 In  the film, With My Back to the World, Agnes Martin speaks about not getting too far above or below the 'line'.  She was discussing her  minimalist paintings and referring to the horizontal  lines she makes in her work.  Her  lines represent to her the calmness a person should feel and the importance of balance in life.  She said that she keeps herself close to the centre line, not letting the opinions of the world influence her work.

Getting back into the flow of my work sometimes takes me a little time.  My way is to ease into it, working small and quickly, letting myself play using various media.  I make no judgments as I work.  Play doesn't involve judgment.   Right now, I'll play for a while and work through that getting back into the studio feeling.  And maybe the play will teach me something that I can bring into my other work.  Maybe my other work will change to be more like the play pieces.....................anything is possible.

The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect, but by the play instinct.   Carl Jung

You've achieved success in your field when you don't know whether what you're doing is  work or play.  Warren Beatty.


  1. Thanks for this blog post Janice - I can really relate to this. I suppose we all get out of this creative "funk" from time to time and I appreciate your thoughts on how you get it back. I can also relate to Eckhart Tolle's when he states " All true artists, whether they know it or not create from a place of 'no mind', from inner stillness".
    It's important to know when to turn the rest of the world to "OFF" mode and get back to what you know how to do best in this world i.e. create.
    Best - Lori
    P.S. It's a small world - I sat beside a woman on Saturday who knows you well - Linda - a school teacher at Chartwell school - would really like to organize a dinner when you come to Vancouver in July if you have time! So looking forward to your workshop!

  2. HI Lori,

    Thanks for your thoughts on this. My work is all about inner stillness, such an important place to work from and so hard to find in this frantic world. See you in Vancouver!

  3. Fabulous post and something that is so part of the art process.

    1. Thanks Ruth, it's important I feel to share our process with each other. Appreciate your taking time to comment.