NEW LIFE / OLD IDEAS
Last spring I took on the daunting challenge of cleaning out my closet - and by closet I mean my studio closet. Since our move to Nashville, which at the time of this ballsy endeavor had been almost three years, my old paintings had been neatly tucked away inside a closet that I rarely opened. For me, that worked fine. I like spaces that feel clean and clutter-free, and did not have a formal studio set up for properly storing the work.
Then I started the 100 Things Challenge proposed by Jess Livelywhere the goal is to gather 100 items in your home to either donate or toss. I absolutely loved this challenge. It helped me think more about why I owned what I owned, or held on to certain things that I never used. Slowly through the process I became less attached. I succeeded in completing the challenge (super liberating) and I knew if I could do that with everything else I owned, surely I could do it with my art.
Surprisingly, this wasn't as hard for me as I thought it'd be. My mindset had already shifted from practicing the exercise over several days and I think I found myself ready to dig in and assess the work (what purpose did it have for me, and for my audience)? Unfortunately, there were quite a few pieces that did not make the cut. I found zero joy in studying the work, so those went right in to the pile to toss. But there were some that I wasn't quite sure of. I couldn't gauge their value or importance, but something about them gave me hope. Did the work just not have its chance to fully evolve? Maybe I claimed them as finished pieces far too early in the process. Because I tend to do that - a lot. As artists we are our own worst critics, overanalyzing every brush stoke, overwhelmed with a fear of messing up (I know it can't just be me)! I was left with six or seven pieces that were sitting under a big question mark and, for one reason or another, I wasn't ready to let them go. So I spent more time studying them and I'm allowing myself time to find their purpose.
I'm now treating these works as if they are merely sketches, looking at them in an entirely different light. Giving back to myself full artistic license, each piece is a jump off point, and I'm changing as little or as much as I like along the way. I'm less afraid of making mistakes because I am not so wrapped up in making a masterpiece - these will be much more about the journey. Which can be tough. I am a planner, no doubt about it, so just letting things "happen" does not always come natural to me. But I am trying. And it may be time to accept that I have some pretty expensive "sketchbooks".