Stress frenzies, deadlines and the unbearable pressure of painting

I learned something this week.

High on the successful completion of Icarus (on display through march at steamscape), one of the most complex paintings I’ve ever done, I immediately launched into Midnight. A painting which promises to be not only similarly complex, but also the largest oil painting I will have made to date. And on another deadline.

I forgot one tiny thing.

I needed to forget. I needed to erase the previous painting from my mind, I needed to clear the air and relax before launching into yet another challenge. I needed to breathe and limber up. I needed to do anything other than work myself into a stress frenzy about deadlines and proceed to push myself, already past the point of exhaustion, to Paintpaintpaint. Nao.

Guess which one I did?

Do you know where that stress frenzy of painting got me? Three complete erasures, (uncounted partial ones) two breakdowns, two 3-4am finishes, and a whole lot of time and energy wasted. In 40degree Australian heat. If I had taken the time to relax, to prepare, to mentally for this piece, I would have gone into it with a clearer mind, and probably would have saved time and sanity along the way.

But that isn’t the way I do things.

if I am being honest with myself, I would agree that this was all a learning experience and that I will know better for next time. Except I won’t. And the fact is that each time I went back over it I learned something. It was a little bit better. It was a little stronger and bolder. And now I like where it is. I am feeling the pressure of my deadline. But now that the bones of the painting are laid out for all to see I can finally relax and start fleshing them out.

2 thoughts on “Stress frenzies, deadlines and the unbearable pressure of painting

  1. We all have our own methods of working. I tend to plan meticulously, work clinically and aim to get projects done at least a week before deadlines, just in case. It works for me, because, as a photographer, a lot of the creativity arises from my technical knowledge of the medium, a lot of pre-thinking and pre-visualization of what I want and my confidence in those things frees my mind during the actual shoot. I think painters are more intimate with their work. It has smells, textures, gets on your hands, your clothes, and you see it slowly appear from the once blank canvas.

  2. It is said of poetry that you never finish it, you abandon it. Maybe painting is the same, and especially if you are painting with a deadline in your head. You are courageous, I don’t think that I could write with a deadline. But then again I never had to do it. Be is as it may, too much stress is not good for you. Try to tone it down a notch or two. Take care.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s