Painting Hangover

The big canvas on which I painted the crane came to me from a friend who lost his vision to macular degeneration. He wanted to be an art teacher when he “grew up,” but when he was still pretty young, it became obvious that wasn’t going to happen. A lot of his paintings hang in in house, and one of them hangs in mine. I have some of his brushes, too. He still likes to talk about painting. Though it’s hard to imagine the conversations make him happy, they seem to. That’s a testament to his resilience and courage. When he couldn’t paint anymore, he went after his other love, music.

I like to talk about painting. I like to talk about artists and pigments and all that stuff that some of you have “had” to read about on my blog over the years. I guess it was around this time last year I invested money I didn’t really have in a set of natural pigments and was completely enthralled by them. I still am. It’s all a big miraculous wonderful thing to me that you can pick up some dirt, pulverize it, mix it with oil or water or eggs or acrylic medium and you have paint.

Finishing the big painting yesterday left me with the bereft feeling I had when I finished writing my first novel. I poured a lot of life and time into that canvas. It sat in my garage until three years ago or so when I thought I knew what it was supposed to be and painted the underpainting. That idea never “jelled,” and the canvas just sat in a corner of my studio, partially painted, all Indian yellow and blue, waiting.

The image of the crane is something I saw briefly in the winter part of March this year. I passed the crane as he walked in solitude between willow saplings on a gray day with lifting fog. I thought, “That’s beautiful,” and kept going. I didn’t know at the time where it would lead me, that it would end up the painting on the big canvas, that I’d find an easel, that I’d drive 100 miles to get it on a glorious early fall day. I didn’t know anything about where that solitary gray image would take me. Now it’s there, no longer furtive and brief, but held as if in amber by the miracle of minerals and linseed oil, a different geology.

Doing a serious painting takes the artist somewhere. This year I’ve gone a lot of places in paintings, via paintings, in paintings. The weird part is finishing and re-entering daily life. You’ve done this THING, difficult and transformative, and when you emerge — not just from the work but the idea — and you’ve succeeded, you wonder, “Where is everybody? Where’s the parade?” 🙂

20 thoughts on “Painting Hangover

  1. I know when I finish a project some do leave me with a feeling of , what now??? As if all direction is lost. Well Martha, we can be there in spirit with you and drink a toast to your accomplishment!!

  2. A strange experience, when that all-consuming event/project is completed. Where is everyone for the celebration and parade? and now why the emptiness and hangover.

  3. Finishing a piece is a loss in a way, because that idea, that passion, that albatross (sometimes!) is gone. An empty bit of space remains. You will find something to fill it, probably on a walk in your beautiful landscape!

    • Exactly. Very well said. As much as I hate this virus and the politics of our time, they have pushed me as an artist because I find relief from all that in a challenging painting. And I’m very grateful I live here because — as you say — there’s tremendous inspiration out there in my world. ❤

  4. There absolutely should be a Hooray! Blow the horns! Something like that. That empty place left behind – who knows, maybe something else is brewing but you don’t know yet what it is. In the meantime, perhaps writing about it so beautifully on this blog is a writer’s celebration. ❤️

    • Everyone’s response has been a parade. ❤ I spent this morning cleaning up the painting and deciding I would never again draw on a canvas with a graphite pencil 😀

  5. What!? There wasn’t a parade?! I was hoping it wasn’t too late to haul it to the art exhibition. Is that still a possibility or is it still wet… Anyway I know that feeling too. When I finished my ceramic yard beads I was at loose ends unable to decide what was next. But it passes with the next idea and the passion is focused on something new…

  6. Congratulations. Yes, something like that can take over your life, and you feel empty when it is over. But it is a good emptiness, which soon begins to fill up with something else. I don’t look forward to that emptimness, but I think we should all do.

    • Yes. That feeling means we’ve accomplished something very meaningful to us and are now someone else in a way. I think, maybe, part of it is learning about that new person who did that thing. For me anyway.

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