My plane touched down in Santa Rosa last Sunday and immediately my phone started pinging with emails and text messages. One message was from afriend letting me know that she loved watching this project unfold and asked if I'd be interested in a possible feature in our local paper for the show come June.
It was just an idea. Not a sure thing. I told her it made me a little nervous, but that probably meant I should say yes, please and thank you. So that's what I did.
Then I drove immediately to the local art supply store and bought the biggest canvases that I could fit in my car, riding the wave of confidence her texts provoked in me.
I got busy taping and gesso-ing the hardwood panels.
No. 12 - Lush 48 x 36 inch
No. 13 - Parched 48 x 48 inch
Something about having started thirteen paintings in the last few weeks and the prospect of having my work be the focus of a feature in our local paper had me freaking out by the end of my painting session on Monday afternoon.
I started this project with a lot of bravado and a big narrative to back up the work.
But what I really needed to do was get down to work and paint, not just talk or write about it.
On Wednesday, I hit my 7 am 12-step meeting and the topic was all about expectations - inner and outer, expectations of others being pre-resentments and how expectations keep us from finding a solution.
I came to the conclusion that expectations can really be very disappointing, especially if the other person doesn't even know you have expectations of them. And what's even worse? Having expectations of yourself when you really, really don't need to add that kind of pressure.
Walking into the painting studio at school, I started to chat with my professor and she pulled me into her office when my eyes started welling up with tears. When I told her I was feeling enormous pressure to produce this giant body of work, she talked me off the ledge by talking about inner and outer expectations for the show. We chatted about how much I share online and if that was adding unneeded pressure on me or if it was aiding to my creative process.
She also reminded me that the feature article about this body of work would most likely focus on me and the story behind The Geographic and that I very easily know how to talk about that. After our conversation, I knew immediately what I needed to do. I needed to paint what was in my head and get it down on a canvas.
I quickly left her office, went outside and started painting over the foundation of painting No. 1 - Dry. I wasted no time.
I had started to hate this painting (above), so without overthinking it, I just plowed ahead and drew horizontal lines with a no. 2 pencil over the top of the underpainting and began applying the colors I had been seeing in my dreams over the last month.
The horizontal bands of color were excactly what I had been hoping to do with this project. This is just the second coast of the underpainting, but now I know what to do and I can build upon it from here.
This is the direction of the abstract landscapes I want to paint of Valley Ford and by putting paint on the canvas, it felt like I answered my own problem. The other painting didn't feel like me. It didn't look like my work. It had elements of me (the circles, the half-dome, the color pink) but it was definitely NOT me.
I stopped to take this picture on the way home from school on Valentine's Day, the same day I worked on the above painting. I saw what I needed to see - a dark band of color, the orange-pinky-yellow glow of the sunset and the ombre blue sky. This was what I was trying to capture. This was part of the story I am trying to tell.
Only my paintings are steeped in memories of driving home buzzed or drunk from work; of creating fake celebratory days of the week, like rosé Wednesdays; and the fuzziness that accompanies one too many glasses of bubbly with friends on my front deck overlooking the pastures and fields surrounding my home.
No 3 - Blackout 18 x 24 x 1.5 inch hardwood panel in process
Something was shaking loose inside of me. I found my groove and my vision for the next few paintings. I packed them up and brought them home to work on over the weekend.
Leaving class that afternoon, I knew I had a lot to think about in terms of process and this project. Part of my process is sharing my process on social media. I'm mildly concerned that in continuing to do so, I might be stressing myself out about the work that lies ahead with this project. It feels really vulnerable to share a painting while it is in process. But the thing is, I like reading about other people's process. I like seeing how they worked through things or how it all transforms and takes shape. In this way, it reminds me of my own recovery. The messiness, the raw emotions, the imperfectness of it all.
But if I want to create enough work to support this show I'm working towards in June, the truth of the matter is that I might have to go dark for a little while and just paint my ass off and keep it all to myself.
Now that feels uncomfortable.
The being quiet thing.
The staying in my head thing.
No feedback or comments.
But maybe that's exactly what I need to do in order to connect more deeply with this project. Channel those feelings of isolation and allow the mood to go from my head and my heart straight onto the canvas.
I'm on the fence about it, but think pushing myself outside of my comfort zone has never been a bad thing. I learn so much about myself and my process when I do.
I'm gonna think about this and see how I feel next week.
Until then, I'll just sit here and take in the view and think about how lucky I am so be sober and using my creativity to fuel this leg of my recovery.
The Geographic is bringing up all kinds of memories and feelings lately and I suppose that's what I want or else I wouldn't have decided to do this work. It'll serve me, I just need to sift through it.
Time takes time, right? I just need to let it.