It's hard to admit that I haven't enjoyed painting since at least 2015. I don't think I have ever publicly stated that. It became like pulling teeth. I don't really know why, and I suspect it started before that, maybe in 2014, when I stopped painting digitally.
The truth is that I started to really struggle to enjoy my work a long time ago. I can't pinpoint a single moment where I began to hate working, but I remember when "it" really hit the fan. I stopped digital painting in the first half of 2014. I switched to oils and that infused my work with a new enthusiasm. My passion for digital painting had been on the wane for a long time and as I neared the day that I would switch to oils, digital painting became merely a tool to finish a few outstanding projects. It was a slog, but I managed to slog on until the work was done. I put down my tablet stylus and have not picked it back up as a digital painter since.
The second half of 2014 was spent preparing for my first solo gallery show. I somehow cranked out a bunch of new work in four or five months. It was my own show and I had the option to do whatever I wanted (thanks, Alex!) and it was exhilarating. The days flew by. I ran a space-heater 24/7 to get my paintings to dry faster, which meant I was working in a room that was at least 80 degrees at all times, and I didn't even care. Everything around me was art. Towels spread out all over the floor, paintings resting on them in front of the heater. Stacks of frames. Bottles of paint that I would use to give all the frames a similar aesthetic. I'd finish a piece and then I'd make the frame. It never stopped and it was fantastic.
And then opening night came and went. I went home and had no crushing deadlines. I could paint whatever I wanted so I started to, but then the invitations for other gallery shows began to roll in. I was excited at the new business prospects for me, someone who had been a lowly digital painter just six months prior, suddenly now a gallery artist. I said yes to everything that came my way and neglected other aspects of my business. I told myself these were growing pains.
The shows were not my shows so they all had themes that I was supposed to work within. This became harder and harder very quickly until each piece dragged on so long I never worked on anything of my own. I told myself these were also growing pains.
I soon realized that I was producing less and less work, and that none of it was cohesive enough to incorporate into any kind of personal project, like a book or calendar. I told myself these were also growing pains.
By the end of 2015 I had sent work off to my last gallery show, and then I said that was enough for a while. I wanted to move away from Montana and I knew I'd have to pack up my art studio because it was such a mess no one would consider buying my house with an active art studio in it. After moving to Georgia, selling the house in Montana, and buying a house here in Georgia, I thought it would just go back to how it was before 2015. But it was hard to settle into my new home. I had a hard time with my new routine here and couldn't figure out how to shape my work days. I spent a lot of time unpacking and moving things from room to room, cabinet to cabinet, trying to figure out how to make it all work.
I told myself I would get back into the habit of painting regularly once we got "all moved in". The reality is that ever since the spring of 2015, I've hated painting and I've been pushing myself through it because it's my job, but I've started to run out of push.
This week has been particularly frustrating. I signed up to participate in a gallery show and started working on a piece. A piece that I would love to create any other time. But knowing there's a hard deadline brought that familiar feeling back. I panicked and I made poor choices that I knew were poor. And I ruined the piece. And I hated every minute of working on it.
Today I nearly finished another piece that I started a couple months ago "just for fun." I also got another one to the halfway mark. That one is also "just for fun." Other than being frustrated at the first one because, it turns out, I hate working on Gessobord (lesson learned), I had... fun! I didn't hate my life or think about burning my paintings in a massive bonfire even once! I actually got my headphones out, plugged them into my phone and listened to some podcasts and audiobooks for hours on end and had no complaints! The two pieces are actually sort of cohesive and I can see them going into a solo show, a book, or a calendar together, and that was never anything that crossed my mind when I started them.
My goal from now on is to say "no" to everything that I don't have absolute creative control over. This is not ideal for certain types of work but for the career I have previously enjoyed of self-producing and self-publishing projects the lovers of my art have asked me for, it is the only way. This is the way that I work best, fastest, and happiest. This is what I will be doing from now on.
With that said, I have no intentions to exhibit work in galleries or to contribute to collaborative or group projects for the foreseeable future. I have a lot of work to do to build up my portfolio as an oil painter, and considering that I have essentially been out of work for a year, I am quite behind! It's a relief to finally be on the right path, and I hope you'll stick with me even if you were exposed to my work through gallery shows. I'm not shutting the gallery door forever, we're just saying "goodbye" for now.
I started writing this blog entry on the 14th or 15th, and finishing it now on the 19th, I feel more than ever that this is the right thing to do. Since writing the beginning of this entry, I have finished another piece of work and am nearly done with another one. Expect big updates with new art very soon!