The Decision (detail) ~ Oil on Canvas ~ ©Linda Hough 2002
OMG, what was I thinking??
My 10 in 10 challenge was a complete F-Bomb.
F as in Failure.
My brilliant, though ill-conceived, idea was that by giving myself the challenge to do the 10 paintings in 10 days, I’d breakthrough some invisible barrier, establish a rhythm and find my theme.
Yikes! This is a perfect example of the theory that setting goals does NOT work for everyone. It is also a perfect example of not asking the right question.
The inspiration for this challenge came about because I wanted to try something different, something I thought would shake me out of my rut.
I remember reading that Georgia O’Keefe reached an impasse early on in her painting. One day, she looked at each painting in her studio and readily identified which teacher had influenced each painting.
She wanted a style all her own, her unique voice on canvas. So she created her own challenge: to strip away all that she knew about art and begin again at the beginning.
Abstraction ~ Charcoal on Paper ~ Georgia O’Keefe 1915
She used only charcoal and paper and began to express what was deep inside. Out of these explorations came some of the first abstract works ever done in this country.
When Alfred Stiglitz, renowned gallery owner and her future husband, saw these works for the first time, he exclaimed: finally, a woman on paper.
This idea of exploration was what I had in mind when I set myself the challenge. But you can see how very different the process was. Rather than allowing the natural unfolding of something new and authentic, I somehow posed a challenge that I was unconsciously hoping would rip my insides out. Clearly a more violent and unnatural approach, one that goes completely against my very nature.
So rather than experiencing my intended outcome, I retreated even further away from the direction I want to go. I stopped painting altogether. And then went on vacation.
But in true coaching fashion, rather than looking at this experiment as a failure, I am taking a look at what I learned about myself and my process.
• The very first thing is that forcing myself to paint is NOT the answer.
• Try as I might, I am not a fast painter, nor a direct painter.
• I prefer to draw or rough in the composition before starting to paint rather than using the paint to compose.
• Glazing is still my favorite way to paint. It gives me no end of joy to watch each layer influence the one below, creating glowing light and color.
• I prefer working on more precise, realistic images with a bit of mystery or fuzziness to them.
• I work best when I have several paintings going at once, not one at a time.
• I also took a look at all the self-talk I had about quitting and failure and more about expectations. Was it a failure to stop something that clearly was not working just for the sake of completing the goal? I think not.
Georgia O’Keefe at Ghost Ranch ~ Gelatin silver print ~ Todd Webb 1905
So, in true Georgia fashion, and in a way that is much more natural and authentic to my own nature, I am now officially letting go of all but one expectation: I’m going to show up and paint. That’s it. No expectation of perfection. No time constraints. In fact, no constraints at all.
I will carry on with my 10 panels but this time with a conscious awareness of exploration, emphasis on being present, and a desire to create something beautiful, something from my heart, something I’ll be more than willing to show others. 🙂