Friday, December 1, 2006

The Real Meltdown

Light Beyond the Dark, 2006, Oil on Panel, 16x20

Well, folks, I have to admit that I am really struggling here. I know it'll pass, I know that I haven't permanently lost my ability to paint but right now it feels as if I can't do anything right. Actually, that's only partially true-the underpaintings I have done recently have been good. It's the color that has really been giving me a hard time. I just can't seem to get the colors right. I can't decide what to start with and I keep envisioning which color would come next-which paralyzes me. Normally I don't think that much when I am doing the color, but now I can't stop thinking. I feel as if I keep using the same colors over and over, even though I am not. I feel blocked when I sit down and look at all of my paint tubes to decide what to start with for the day. None of them look appealing to me lately.

To make it worse, of the seven images I sent to the gallery for approval, two were rejected (including the one above). I know they aren't awful, they just may not appeal to the director for whatever reason. And none of the new pieces will be included on the postcard. That image will be of a piece that is already in the gallery's inventory. It's a nice piece and it will look great. But still. The timing of all of this is just bad. I had a very unproductive day in the studio Thursday, only getting color onto one single, stupid painting. And I am really starting to feel the pressure to get this work finished and I am worried that I won't be able to pull it out of the bag, so to speak.

Now this is a true post show meltdown. Not the one I lightheartedly joked about a few weeks ago but the real one, the nasty one that strips me of all of my confidence and energy and vision.

But today is another day. And I will try again.


James Wolanin said...

Hi Tracy,

When things aren't working, I find it's best to take a little break. Get out of the studio, relax and look at other peoples art. Look at what other artists are doing with color. It will all come back to you!

Tracy Helgeson said...

You are both right. But the thing is, I HAVE been taking a break! I've been doing a very minimal amount of work each day and in the last few weeks I have taken several days off entirely, not to mention all of the weekends.

I think that's why this is so frustrating. I needed the break, took it and now I can't get the "mojo" back when I need it again.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry you're having such a tough time. Perhaps looking at other artist's images, or going to a museum, browsing through art books might trigger something in your brain that will allow you to get back on track.

I'm sorry that painting wasn't chosen. Personally, I think it's lovely.

debre said...

My unsolicited advice is to try to just stay with the feeling and see it through. Your instincts are so good about color. Make sure you're listening to your spirit and not your inner critics. Breathe. Be yourself. From here that looks like a pretty amazing woman and artist for anyone to be!

Anonymous said...

Tracy, I think it's time you just admitted you suck. You're a terrible painter and you never get anything right anyway.

I'm kidding, of course. I just wanted to balance out all these touchy-feely people telling you it'll pass and all that crap. You know it will, intellectually. Of course you do.

But if knowing was all it took, we'd all be a lot better off. Just because you know how arsenic works doesn't mean it won't kill you if you eat it.

So, I know you know it'll pass, we all know it'll pass, but it's going to be pretty miserable until it does, whatever you do. All I can say is, I understand, darling.

meno said...

I can't imagine what it's like to feel pressure to be creative. That's not really the incentive of choice.

Tracy Helgeson said...

Kathy, Jim and Shan again, Doug read my post and then dragged me (under protest) up to Utica to see a really good collection of art (I'll talk about it on Monday and include links). So while I am not sure that I will be able to paint when I try again, I do feel a bit better art in general. Thank you all so much for your advice!

You're right Debre. I do need to clear out my mind, should be easy I would think:-) and just work through all of this. Soon I will have no choice because my deadlines are fast approaching...

Chris, Thanks for your refreshing take on my struggles. It WILL suck until it passes. And thanks for the understanding, dear. I am off now to listen to really depressing music which always cheers me up somehow.

Meno, Most of the time the creativity feeds on the pressure. (Like when I did those large barn paintings, there was a lot of pressure and they turned out great) But sometimes it doesn't, and then everything sucks. Until it doesn't again.

Anonymous said...

My advice is to keep struggling through it. When you work and work and work it just starts flowing, it's hard to get that back again but it will come as you keep painting.

Maybe try something a bit new and exciting. I think that painting you did (that was rejected) is a tad plain, beautiful still, but there isn't a lot of "subject" to it. I hope you get what I mean. Maybe throw a distant figure or two in some of your upcoming paintings to make them a little more new and exciting for you.

I'm right here struggling along with you as my work is changing a little bit, perhaps you are going through a "growth spurt" as I call them, they are horrible and painful but something good always comes out of them eventually.

Anonymous said...

Maybe throw a distant figure or two ...

That's what your paintings need, Tracy! Naked women! Add some naked women right up front, lounging in front of the barns. Perfect!

I'll pose for you. When can I come up?

Tracy Helgeson said...

Shan, So true! Weekends are time off of ONE of my jobs:-)

Lauren, I am taking everyone's advice here. I took the day off today and then starting Sunday I will have to start struggling through it. I know that that works too. I have tried both and they all suck but I know that I will eventually get it back. You are right-this is a very simple piece, which usually works for me but maybe doesn't sometimes. I would love to mix it up and add an image of a naked Chris in everything but this isn't the time unfortunately. I need some time to develop the concept of figures in the landscape and there just isn't time right now. It is on my list though!

Chris, Um, aren't you a boy? Not sure that I can picture your pecs in my landscapes or in front of a barn door. I have been known to change my mind though. I'll let you know...

Anonymous said...

Tracy - I can only echo all the good advice here. If you think that you have been 'taking a break' maybe it just wasn't enough, .... you do live life like crazy after all!

Maybe if you spent a day painting quick studies on paper ... or anything that doesn't really MATTER. Just have a bit of fun and to hell with the results .... know what I mean?

Or go out and boogie the night away with Doug. Or go and have a massage.

Probably your 'mental muscles' have just tensed up too much ... like a golf player taking too many putts to win the hole.

It will come right ... it WILL, d'ya hear?

Tracy Helgeson said...

Thanks Lesly, for the encouragement. And you offer great suggestions. I would love to do something entirely different for a day. If I can't get something going next time in the studio, I will try it.

Maybe it's all of this stupid exercising crap that is throwing me off my game:-)

Anonymous said...

Tracy asks:
Chris, Um, aren't you a boy?

Yeah, but I have boobs anyhow.

The one time I went to a figure drawing session I mentioned to a woman there that people seemed to prefer drawing women for some reason. She said she prefers women over men because women are more curvy.

"Show me a woman," I said, "as curvy as I am."

Tracy Helgeson said...

Chris, Well if you have boobs, ok, you can come and pose for me.....

Angela Wales Rockett said...

Ugh, I hate it when that happens! As you know, it will get better, it just needs to cycle around.

I LOVE this piece, by the way. It is so beautiful. You ARE such wonderful artist, and I love your colors.

Lisa Call said...

I have to say I prefer Chris's comments (not the naked part although that was lovely) but the "yeah it sucks". I have to say when I am feeling the way you are feeling that is probably about the only thing I would want to hear. (well maybe that and "I bought you some really yummy dark chocoloate") Cause all the cheerful stuff - that would probably just piss me off. But maybe that's just me.

Anyway - my advice - take up quilting - it takes longer to make a piece so it takes longer to have enough work for a show - so lots more quality productive time between post show meltdowns. So really, in the end it's quite efficient.

Anonymous said...

Lisa sez:
I have to say I prefer Chris's comments (not the naked part although that was lovely)...

Be thankful I didn't point you at my nude self-portrait.

Kris Shanks said...

Um, I agree with Chris, that feeling pretty much sucks. Another printmaker, Maria mentioned the other day that sometimes being an artist is like being a draft horse. You have to put some blinders on and just keep ploughing through the field without paying to much attention to what anyone else is saying about your art, including your inner critic. I hope Sunday is more productive for you. I'm going to be painting eggs myself.

Anonymous said...

Hey Tracy don't worry honey... this is typical life of all of us artists and it’s been happening through centuries!
Sometimes I don’t have the desire to touch a paintbrush. Other times it seems I needed to paint just as much oxygen to breath.
And about rejection, so what? We can’t please everyone all of the time. Look at poor Van Gogh how much rejection he had through his life, look at Picasso Mademoiselles D’Avignon who were so despise in his life time to become a masterpiece later on. Look at poor Rousseau who never got a proper exhibition in a gallery and now he is all over the museums… do you want a list?
Don’t despair honey, you are a natural, if you don’t feel like painting now don’t paint… as long as you don’t turn like that Japanese artist who made 15 years of psychological invisible paintings… hahaha No! It will come it just need some pause. HUGGGGGGGGGGGGG!!!!!!

PS I like this painting by the way, I love the yummy pink…

Tracy Helgeson said...

Kris, Good analogy and pretty accurate I'd say. Thanks for the good thoughts and have fun with the eggs. Will you show them on your blog?

Angela, Thanks so much for the encouragement and understanding.

I do want to say though that I don't mind rejection so much, (I know that not everyone in the world is going to like my work, if that were the case I'd have way more money:-)) it's just that in this case, the rejection of any painting means that I have to do more to take their place and I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by having to do that.

Anonymous said...

ohhh yes! It can be a total energy sapper that feeling, but what is the alternative... quit? No way! Never say die.

Lisa Call said...

Be thankful I didn't point you at my nude self-portrait.

I'm waiting for Tracy's interpretation - I prefer my nudes in a barn. Or at least on a driveway in front of one.

Tracy this could be a pretty hot new idea - nudes and barns - I did a google search and doesn't look like there is much competition yet.

Anonymous said...

I find that the light levels and weather make quite a difference to colour when I'm working. I always choose my threads by clear daylight, and I can tell when the choice was made in the winter rather than the summer - or whether I was in Scotland or the South of France.

When I have problems with colour I give myself simple exercises like working only in black and white, or shades of grey, or limiting my palette to browns and greys, ....

But sometimes just moaning, sighing, slumping about, panicking, and telling lots of people, is just what's necessary! A deep sleep is probably the best cure for a mind in a spin.

By the way, I too think the Barnyard Nudes series is a great idea.

Anonymous said...

Here's the recipe and cure for the "I can't paint any more syndrome" 100% effective. If you do this you'll be ready to tackle anything.

Paint a picture using the following as your palette of colors:
butter( soft and creamy consistency like good paint should feel)
coffee- dark wet grounds
grape juice (the dark kind kids like to spill on the couch)
mud -(yes, real good old fashion mud pie mud)
red jam or jelly
beet juice
raw spinach leaves (use like pastel)
use these with brushes, knifes, hands or sponge on large sheet of watercolor paper.

when you are done creating whatever it is you try, You'll be cured.

Tracy Helgeson said...

Thanks Olga, for the suggestions about using a limited palette. It's a great idea but I can't really do that now. Will keep it in mind for the next time I freak out though:-) This time I'll have to stick to "moaning, sighing, slumping about, panicking, and telling lots of people". Perfect!

And thank you Anonymous, for the very strange yet creative cure. I will keep it on hand. Has it worked for you?