I’ve written about plateauing as an artist before, but it’s frightening to be going through it, yet again. I’m up half the night working with little to show for the hours put in. While on one hand my work has become comfortable, on the other hand the excitement to start another painting just isn’t there anymore. I’m procrastinating away the time as I stress out over not starting a new painting. While I’m excited about the actual imagery, I feel as if I’ve hit a wall about how to execute it. The work has become too easy. Not exactly a terrible problem to have, but if I’m not excited about my art, the work reflects it. Recently an artist friend told me how solid my work appeared to her. She didn’t realize how that comment triggered off something in my head. She meant it as a compliment, but struck something deeper.
Last week I went to the galleries in Chelsea looking for inspiration. It’s the one place I can regenerate and plug into when I’ve come to a dead end. It’s good to see through other artists eyes. I use the galleries like a library. It’s a form of research I do to find some path that might open a door into a new direction. Even if I don’t see something exciting, since it’s all so hit or miss, I’m still able to absorb an energy that fuels hours of work later. The art I found myself gravitating to this time was large, visceral paintings with a spontaneous explosive quality about them…work that felt fresh and honest without being self-conscious. It’s art that doesn’t take itself so seriously and reaches for a childlike abandonment.
On some level I knew this is exactly what’s missing in my own work. While it’s important to have good skills, innovation needs to distinguish itself in the way the art is executed. After looking at work in gallery after gallery, I’ve come to the conclusion if a painting doesn’t work, then collage over it, throw paint at it, use your hands, your feet on it...anything that pushes the art further.
I must admit I came back to my studio no longer just a painter. The canvas that made me sick with a stress cold last week, suddenly has taken on a new feel. I just collaged over what wasn’t working, used a pallet knife and finger painted into it. I call it art play now, which gives the work a whole different set of expectations.