There is no more dangerous time in an artwork – for me anyway – than when it’s about 20% done. I’m still trying to establish whatever needs establishing – line, shape, tone, colour, brushwork, composition – or all of the above – but it is probably still just imprecise outlines, blotches and ‘not quite right’ colours and tones in not quite the right places. These all combine forces to shout at me, ‘This is never going to turn out, this is a waste of time, you can’t do this, this is rubbish, YOU are rubbish!'
At this point, the desire to flee from this tirade, and do something ‘useful’, such as peg the washing on the clothesline, can be very strong. But I’m learning to say sternly to myself, ‘You can’t judge the artwork yet! It needs the other 80% to come together. Obviously, there’s no guarantee I will be satisfied with the finished piece, but when I am, I continue to be amazed when I think back to the 20%, ‘run, run, run away!’ stage which has accompanied most works.
The other night I began a line drawing from a photo taken on our recent holiday. I muddled for half an hour, thought it was rubbish and I was kidding myself; but at that stage it was too late to hang the washing, so I went to bed. With the optimism of a new morning, and because I’d not packed it away, I thought I’d give it a little more time, and it fell into place quickly and quite easily. (See below) The truth is, I’d done the hard, unrewarding part the night before.
So I remind myself to push through the early hack, unrewarding stage, regardless of how I feel. Not to let fear, doubt, insecurity and tiredness dictate what I attempt or finish, but let my hopes and desires do that!