Saturday, August 06, 2011

When **IT Happens

Sometimes in the course of events, 'It' happens. 'It', meaning that moment when something tells you that things are just not going right; that the trajectory of your efforts are taking you down a road that has no end; that instant when the light bulb goes off over your head and you see, more clearly, how mistaken you might have been to set out on that course in the first place.

Such a moment occurred the other day when, after having spent several days working on something on the board, I stood up, scratched my head and wondered out loud to the walls, who were listening with great interest, what was I thinking? I had started down a road that I thought was pretty clear and distinct only to find, at a point where there seemed to be only a couple of hours worth of work left to complete the piece, that it all seemed for naught. I just felt that things were not as they should have been at that stage of work. I muttered and sputtered and went to make a cup of tea and to cogitate for a bit about what was staring at me from the drawing board. I didn't like what was staring back at me.

I can probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of times in the last thirty years that this sort of thing has happened, but I knew rather quickly after returning to the studio with a cup of tea in hand, that this was one of those times. It was apparent to me after having walked away and stood in the kitchen for ten minutes, upon my return to the work at hand on the drawing board, it was something that, in the end, I would most likely not want to have put my name to and that was the teller. Before I had any chance of having second thoughts, I quickly tore up the work and that was that. No lingering thoughts of 'wasted time' for having worked on it for several days, no nagging thoughts of what might have been, no pressing thoughts of remorse! I just did not see a way of 'salvaging' what seemed to be a losing battle. Unlike my painter friends who can wipe clean their canvas and start over, my only recourse is to tear up and maybe, yes maybe at some future date, give it a shot once again.

In the intervening days, I've moved on to the next work on my list and am six hours into it and feeling like things are moving along quite well. I've hardly given any thought to the work that occurred earlier in the week or how it failed; it's simply time to get on with things. The material that sparked that failed idea is still somewhere floating around, and the idea might have a second chance sometime down the road, but for now, my head is elsewhere and other than the bits and pieces of that torn up work still sitting in the trash can beside my drawing board, there is little evidence of that episode.

Yes, there are things to be learned from this. Yes, I will certainly have taken away something from this experience that can be applied in the future to maybe avoid making the same error in judgement. And yes, now that I can look at it from a few days removal, there are the slightest twinges of doubt. But it's all part of the process; we make mistakes, we hope to learn from them, we hope to improve, we hope to be able to accept doubt and move beyond it.

The creative process is not a stagnant process. It bends and curves, pulls and twists. If it is allowed to take complete control, it can result in wonderful things; you just move with the flow and follow wherever it takes you. Sometimes, the process hits snags, walls may get thrown up to stop you dead in your tracks or to force you to look for ways of circling around them to continue on your way. So, earlier this week, I encountered one of those walls, looked at the options, thought about the possibilities and made a choice. I believe it was the correct choice and have no reason to look back . . . only ahead.


sue said...

I think the photo of your torn drawing makes a great subject for a future drawing :o)

Linda Besse said...

Hi Terry,
Thanks for sharing. I know how that feels as I posted just such an event a few months ago.
You are bold to still have the remnants in the wastebasket as I would have wanted to empty the basket immediately. To know that someone of YOUR caliber can on a rare occasion hit a wall is encouraging to the rest of us.

Roger Brown My Botswana Art said...

Yes I have had that feeling as well, where you realize that the painting is just not turning out right,and normally its after a cup of tea and some pondering ,before you come to the decision whether to continue with it or throw it away,but as painters we do have more to work with,pencil and pen are much more unforgiving.

Iowalady said...

Perhaps one day you could NOT sign it, go by and drop it off framed, to a shelter for the homeless or some such place where it could inspire someone to perhaps start again with their life....just a thought