The composition in my painting refuses to resolve itself and I’m really not sure the picture will work! I have been wondering whether I should give up on it. I already have months of hours logged into this thing. There’s really just a few threads left of curiosity left in me to continue working on it to see what happens next.
The first rule in painter Richard Diebenkorn’s 10 rules for painting comes to mind:
“Attempt what is not certain. Certainty may or may not come later. It may then be a valuable delusion.”
One way to interpret this rule is that my difficult picture is a gift. If it looked pretty throughout the whole process there would be an absence of struggle. The picture is a gift because it is asking me to wrestle with it.
Struggle does seem to be a necessary part of painting. I’ve made pictures that felt pretty the whole time I’m painting them. Each step of the process worked well and it gave me a lightheaded sort of buzz. It felt almost too easy. Later I looked at those pictures and felt that they lacked something. There was too much certainty in making the picture so that the making of it required very little faith.
Struggle is the inescapable friction of life- without it there’s just no heat. I’ve found that it’s good to stumble around in the dark a bit- it builds faith and gives the work a stronger sense of living-ness.
I’m talking myself into it, so I must actually want to keep working on this picture. I think I will keep working on it, keep talking to it, and see what it says...
Have you ever had this sort of experience? How do you continue working when the solution seems uncertain?
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