What do you do when it’s all going wrong, and there’s an audience for your fiasco?
|Can I finish this successfully? Gee, I hope so.|
I am tossing around a theory that there’s a sweet spot in composition. On one side, you have the so-called ‘perfect composition.’ We’re always upset when these don’t win prizes, but—hint—they can be boring. On the other side is the total mess that breaks all rules, that is visually jarring and doesn’t satisfy.
Somewhere between them is where I aim to be. I have hit that at times by breaking rules (yes, the same rules I tell my students not to ignore). Not yesterday.
|Carol's Bell Curve of Composition|
It was a horrible day painting. Nothing I touched worked, and I couldn’t focus. Why?
It’s possible I set myself up to fail. That morning, I told watercolorist Ted Lameyer that I almost never end up flailing around these days.
It’s also possible that physical discomfort was getting in my way. My back is bothering me. And after working for several days in hot sun with insufficient fluids, I have a background dehydration headache.
It’s more likely, however, that the problem lies in the challenges I’ve set myself. I want to scale up my field painting in general. The smallest painting I want to do here is 11X14.
The subjects I mapped out for this year are also difficult. They’re things I’ve shied away from in previous years. For example, Castine’s common is a lovely patch of green ringed by venerable white clapboard buildings. It’s quintessential New England, but it’s basically a void surrounded by subject, with the added fillip of a Civic War monument smack dab in the middle of every view. My solution—a head-on view of the Adams School—may interest me, but it’s going to be a tough composition to wrestle into submission.
|Maxwell the boatyard dog. His interest makes me wonder if my late dog Max peed on my backpack.|
Still, I have no option but to recover. How will I do that?
There are several painters at this event whose judgment I trust; I will consult them today. Why listen to them rather than my own internal voice, which I usually trust?
In the heat of the moment we often hate what ain’t bad. Last year at this event, I painted the British Canal. I spent half my time on it and disliked the results; I would have run over it and tossed it in the ocean had that been an option. It’s in a collection here in Castine and I saw it last night. It’s actually an interesting and edgy painting but I was too frustrated at the time to realize that.
I find it helpful to remind myself that I don’t have to prove that I can paint; I wouldn’t be here if I couldn't. I try to block out what happened yesterday. Above all, I don’t perseverate over failing paintings; I move on.
And, lastly, I make sure I get enough sleep. Sometimes my worst failures are from simple exhaustion. Fix that, and I’m once again my usual chirpy self.