Friday, April 22, 2011

Letting Go and Moving On

If there's been a recurring theme for me this year, it's loss and letting go.  Wait.  That's two themes.

If there have been two recurring themes for me this year, they would be loss and letting go.  While I'm not going to bother covering the loss thing (because it's horribly inconvenient to my talking point), I do want to address the idea of letting go... as it applies to my work.

Now, there are many ways that I am forced to let go of things in my work.  One way that I let go occurs when I stop working on a given piece.  Another is when I finally put a piece up for sale.  Both potentially interesting subjects that I might address at some other point down the road.  What I really am trying to drive at, however, are those occasions when I decide to abandon an unfinished piece.

Abandoning a painting is something I rarely do.  With commissioned work involving deadlines, abandoning something will invariably require me to repaint it anyway, so in these situations it pretty much never happens.  In my personal work, however, it does happen, and of late it's happened more than usual.

Before I moved to Boston, I had a few personal pieces started that I'd been futzing with for a year or two.  They were pieces I'd pull out when I had nothing better to work on, and despite the hours I spent on them, I never actually got closer to completing them.  Why?  Really simple, I was getting better as they sat there and every time I worked on them, I spent more time fixing stuff that was already there than covering new ground.  So, despite being worked on, they hovered in a perpetual state of rawness, and became clutter more than art.

What made things worse was that the pieces no longer spoke to me.  I stopped feeling any kind of passion for them.  Over time, their compositions and subject matter began to bore me, and consequently the work I put into them became stagnant and laborious.

Still, I didn't have the guts to sand them down and let them go.  For some reason, I got hung up on the hours that I'd already put into them and felt to some extent like it would be better to finish them and have something to show for my efforts.  This was a mistake, and a waste of time.  I had failed to apply a very basic concept that I employ in so many other ways and in so many other situations.  I ignored the cost/benefit ratio.

Cost/benefit, as it applies to these paintings, required me to estimate the total amount of time and energy that I would have to put into the pieces to finish them, and weigh that against the potential end result.  Now, any given painting has huge potential, but as I've already stated, my interest was waning and the work would be tedious at best.  Even if the pieces that resulted ended up being decent, I was no longer convinced that they'd either be good additions to my portfolio or something I could sell.  While I knew the truth of the matter, I chose to ignore it.  I got lost in the obligation of it all.  I felt like I owed the labor to myself and my work.  Until, that is, the move to Boston became official.

For some reason, I woke up to the fact that the work just wasn't up to par and came to the conclusion that I was not going to get a whole lot out of it if I saw the pieces to their conclusion.  After much hemming and hawing, I finally did the cost/benefit analysis and sanded the pieces down.

I've been pondering a similar circumstance lately, as well.  I've got my original Legend of Badass painting that is essentially finished (minus a few changes that could be made in an hour or two).  Then I've got the revised cover that is part giclee, part painting.  I've been toiling away at the thing for a couple months between jobs, stealing the time here and there to work on it, and I'm a little unsure as to whether I should bother seeing it to its end or not.  I mean, the parts that are giclee don't look terrible, and the piece is about 2/3 painted.  Should I continue and see it through, or should I just find a good place to stop and call it a day?

The main reason that any of this is even an issue is because I want to start digging into a personal piece again.  I have a solid idea that I'm happy with, I have my reference shot, I have a good sense of what I'm going to do with the piece, and it's now just a matter of sitting down and doing it.  Still, that cover keeps staring me down from across the room.  "Finish me," it says.

The trouble is, I'm getting that same itch I've gotten before.  I'm retreading ground with the piece and I'm starting to get boring.  As such, I've decided to impose a deadline on myself.  I have until the 30th of April to complete the piece.  Whatever state it's in is the state it shall remain.  Then it's off to a new assignment and a new, large painting.  For me.

In the meantime, I must make a trip this weekend.  A long drive down to Pennsylvania to spend a couple days with family, before heading to New Jersey where I will once again revisit the year's two themes: loss and letting go.

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