|OVER HER BANKS 8x10 oil on canvas panel|
When I feel stuck, stymied and stupid, I try to remember that improvement, for me, has never been steady or easy. It seems to go from one plain to the next in erratic steps. Part of moving to a new plateau seems to be accompanied by a deep dissatisfaction with everything I'm trying to paint, and the feeling of, "What am I doing? Why did I ever try to do this? I obviously don't get it! Nothing I paint is really of any value." I've learned not to stay with those thoughts, but to recognize them for what they are, the signal that I'm ready to go to a new level. When I can't figure out what's wrong, my job is not to focus on discouragement, but rather the next painting, and the next, experimenting with the things I want to see developing in my paintings. I am competing only with myself.
I often take advantage of Robert Genn's wonderful blog, The Painter's Keys, when I'm dealing with painting issues, looking for encouragement or insight to what I'm experiencing. From the artist's quotes section on frustration, I find these to be very much on the mark:
"I had gotten to the point where I was either going to play the violin much better or I was going to break it over my knee." (Ellen Taaffe Zwilich)
Have you worked on your craft to the point of frustration?... have you gone to bed thinking you're dog shit, that you just can't get it right? If you haven't had this feeling, you're never going to make it. (Bob Lefsetz)