I’ve written in recent posts about that rhythm that sometimes comes when I am readying work for shows, a deep groove filled with a self-regenerating energy that feeds on itself. Just a wonderful feeling when I can stop for a moment and relish it.
But sometimes during these grand bouts of this rhythm there are days when the wheels seem to come off the wagon and everything crashes. Nothing works and every effort results in frustration and failure. The rhythm that seemed onmipresent just moments before seems to have suddenly vanished completely and every action feels like I’m trying to move a huge boulder. That was yesterday.
It started promisingly enough, working on the small detail work that is the grunt work of what I do. Staining a few frames here. Varnishing a few paintings there. Then I worked for a bit on a piece in progress and stiil everything felt good, the synapses still sparking brightly.
But then later in the morning I pulled out a decent sized canvas, 2′ by 3′, to start. It had been treated with multiple layers of gesso and I felt like stars were aligned for this piece. By the end of the day I realized I had misread these stars. They were telling me to run. Nothing worked at all on this piece. The color was flat and every effort to bring it to life failed miserably and made the whole thing seem even more drab and lifeless. Six or seven hours in and I step back to take it in and it is nothing but awful and the lightness that came with the rhythm has been replaced with a frustrating weight that rests heavily on my shoulders as well as in my gut.
I am at that moment verging on screaming in a very primal way, like the character in the Edvard Munch painting. My scream was replaced by a grab for the paint and within minutes there is a layer of black on the canvas, all evidence of my day covered in thick strokes of paint. Seeing the failure of the day covered in black actually takes the edge off of the frustration I am feeling at the moment. The flatness is dead and gone and I know that I will no longer be struggling over it, no longer struggling to bring a corpse back to life.
But the frustration still lingers in the studio and I know that there will be nothing gained by fighting it. I clean up and end my day, hoping that the new morning will find me refreshed and back in rhythm.
That being said, I have to go. There’s a rhythm in here someplace and, godammn it, I am going to find it. Like Darth Vader says above– failure will not be tolerated.