Sunday, November 6, 2011

My handmaiden named Anxiety.

Light filtering into the studio recently..

"A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety."~Aesop

Sometimes I wonder if it is better to be frayed as an artist, or to seek the stitch.

I am a type 'A' personality where 'A' = anxiety. T.S. Eliot once wrote: "Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity". What a wise man he was. Yes, anxiety can be a huge hindrance to creative flow, output and inspiration. If you are naturally predisposed to anxiety it can be a regular guest in the studio with you. A few years ago I was having some health struggles and remember being so anxious that I couldn't even paint at times. So, how do you work through anxiety with regards to your work?

Fortunately my anxiety rarely centers around my paintings but other thoughts that drift in and out of my mind while I work. Ideally your creative space should be a refuge, a crucible of energy that you can distill you work into, unfettered by anxiety and worry. However this is rarely so. Thus we must make the best effort we can. I like to listen to music, television shows or movies that I know well. I can paint away while enjoying a film and this serves to dissipate anxiety while providing entertainment too. 

Also, if you can mix exercise into your workday I think you will notice an improvement in anxiety/mood and certainly fitness level. Exercise is a panacea. It is better than any medication in my opinion. It is natural and your body doing what it was meant to do. I wish I had mountains within reach every day but I enjoy a good jog along Lake Ontario as well. Everywhere has its own unique beauty.

Here is a photograph of some flesh tones I was mixing on my palate recently. There are so many variations of colour and value that go into anything, let alone skin. When I first started to paint many years ago, I used about three variations of the same colour for the skin of my subject. Now there are innumerable ones. It is all a part of learning. It is evolution. It is not a fast process...but with time it will happen and your work will blossom. When I am painting, I strive for a subtle edge. This can refer to creases or areas that recede from the eye. If you mix a colour just a value or two away from the one adjacent to it, you can effectively "mix" the colours but in a more segmented way. Yet when you step away and move back your eye will naturally blend them together. See Lucian Freud's work for the best example of this ever (RIP Lucian).

Yes, this is a photograph of the isolated chaos that is my palate and paint tubes. Are you one of those artists where paint flies everywhere? If so, let me know. I'm a very "quiet" painter. I've wondered about how many artists are really "Pollocky" out there...a hurricane of paint etc. In fact I'd love to know or see photographs of other artists' studios...feel free to send them to me if you wish. I work in a VERY small space which is a part of the larger space where I live. One day I will have a room devoted just to painting/work. I can't wait :) Until then I realize I could probably paint in a linen closet if I had to.

And finally here is a photograph of a section from a larger piece that I recently completed. It will be featured in my upcoming solo exhibition at Abbozzo Gallery in less than a year's time (it takes a long time to paint a full show!). I hope to see you there! This show is an exploration of the theme of waiting and the human condition (two favourite topics). In this painting above, you can see the work of applying different tones and values with minimal blending on the panel. Skin is one of the trickiest things to render I find, and therefore quite  intriguing. 

I hope this day finds you well, anxiety-free and smiling....:)