Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Little Push

What is it that makes you push your boundaries? Where do you get stuck?

I see over and over how I limit myself. My scripts go something like this: "I don't do that (paint large, paint certain subjects)." "I don't have time." "I don't have the skills". And underneath is the fear "Oh, I'll try that and make a fool of myself."

Fortunately, I get prodded with challenges that make me take a leap. Sometimes it is through one of the artisan's guilds that I belong to. They'll throw out a theme and ask people to come up with something either in their own medium or something new they'd like to play with, and create a piece of work. Those usually have a pretty lengthy warning time - so I mull and stew - and eventually decide that I do have something to say about the topic - and stretch a little. Voila!

Sometimes it is through a commission - "I like what you've done here, and I'd like something like that but ..." and I'm onto a new adventure.

Two weeks before Easter, my dear friend Marge asked me if I would consider doing six simple paintings to accompany the Flood narrative at the Easter vigil. I was seduced by the "simple". I like to accomodate Marge. I was flattered that she thought I could do this. So I agreed. Then she said, "They need to be visible halfway back in the church." Oops, they'll have to be bigger than I usually paint. Poster board was acceptable.

I tried to come up with the six quick and effective illustrations. Storm and lightening, dove, and rainbow - they were pretty easy to envision. But the ark on the waters, the animals and people gathering to go on the ark, and the one where they're disembarking - I couldn't come up with anything that would avoid a fair amount of detail and I didn't have a lot of time.

I ended up devoting several days to the project - but I found myself playing with new forms, and textures. I had a great time doing it. Painting larger has become less intimidating, and I really liked doing the animals, figuring out how to arrange them to show off their attributes.

It is precisely this kind of push that keeps me growing as an artist - and I suspect, as a person.

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