Above, the AbEx painter Grace Hartigan photographed in her studio
Mason Currey is back with another one of his excellent creative advice columns. This topic deals with the difficulty of finishing off a project and then feeling completely adrift.
There are a number of wonderful quotes from painters Helen Frankenthaler and Grace Hartigan that I would love for you to see. (And if you have an advice for the letter writer, this blog consists of a wonderful community of artists and writers that are very generous and open to hearing all perspectives.)
“I will often get back to painting after a break and panic and not know where I left off. I seem to start at day one again. I sit around and sharpen pencils, make phone calls, eat handfuls of pistachios, take a swim. I feel I should, must, will paint. It is agony. It is boredom. I become impatient and angry with myself, until I reach a point of feeling I must start, make a mark, just make a mark. Then, hopefully, I slowly get into a new phase of work.”
I love this quote from Frankenthaler because it so closely hews to how I feel about my own relationship to procrastinating and working. There’s often periods where other responsibilities take me away from painting, and getting back into it feels very hard, even though art-making is something I want to do very much.
Eventually it builds up to a point inside where I can’t bear the idea of doing anything else besides art-making, and that’s when I’m able to throw down all other distractions and pick up the paintbrush.
I want to work on a system where I can lower that threshold. So that when the procrastinating is building and building, it can’t build for very long before I feel I can dive back into art making.
One commenter suggests taking a class in something you’re new at, or not as skilled at, so that you have freedom to return to the beginner’s mindset. It’s possible that after feeling like a beginner for a while, you’ll want to return to the type of art-making where you feel most skilled and proficient. I like that technique.