I’m sitting in my studio looking at an empty canvas. It wasn’t empty not too long ago. No, I spent the better part of the afternoon yesterday working on this canvas, a 36″ square that was prepped beforehand with gesso and a first layer of black paint. Several hours spent and not a minute of it felt smooth or in rhythm. The paint didn’t come off the brush in the way that I expected or desired. The composition seemed to just go nowhere ,leaving bland and lifeless bits of nothing littered all over the canvas. I never felt a flow, that quality I have described before where one mark leads to the next as though you are reading the lines and strokes on the canvas like they were revelatory tea leaves.
No tea leaves here yesterday. Everything led to nothing. After a few hours, I was exasperated and I knew deep down inside that I had betrayed my own words and had tried to force the work rather than let it flow out organically. That was the lesson and I knew what had to be done. I laid the canvas flat on the floor and broke out the black paint, covering the offensive marks that had been there moments before.
It felt good, actually.
Time reveals many things and after tens of thousands of hours spent in the studio I have learned that failure is no big deal. It’s like the weather– temporary. It comes and goes. A failure like yesterday doesn’t make me happy but knowing that sometimes things just don’t work out makes me take such a temporary failure with a philosophical shrug. And instead of struggling ahead with this horror show that was unfurling before me, trying to somehow cobble it back to life, my experience has taught me that it would be best to retreat and start anew.
Tabula rasa, so to speak.told
So here I sit this morning, a new day, with a fresh canvas waiting for me and there is a new air of anticipation around it. Yesterday is but a lesson and there’s no telling what the time spent today will reveal. Can’t wait.
Here’s one of my all-time favorites which sort of ties in with today’s post. It’s Time (The Revelator) from Gillian Welch.