Unlocking the Mystery

For the past few months, I’ve been working on a commission that’s been far outside my comfort level.  I can’t say too much about it until it’s ready to ship out to the client, but I will readily acknowledge that seldom have I approached a commissioned piece of artwork with such trepidation and determination.  This piece has been a huge challenge, in more ways than one, and I’m proud of myself for accepting the challenge.  <—– SO SCARY!!!
Each painting has a “ta-da!’ moment, one color or one brushstroke or one line that suddenly and magically transforms the whole piece from a mess of paint into a living, breathing, flowing thing.  It’s like slicing through the Gordian knot, except you aren’t sure which tool to use to try and cut it, or what it’s made of, or what will happen when it falls to pieces.  (And you’re blindfolded.  In a cave.  With a bear.  Wearing Lady Gaga’s meat dress.)  While I’d love to say that my paintings are all meticulously planned out with preparatory color studies and thumbnails, this is unfortunately not the case.  Many times, I have a great, wonderful, exciting idea – maybe even a spark from a reference photo or trip to the barn – and I dive right in.  I DO plan a little bit, but probably not quite to the level I should.  I’m working on it.  Really.
But back to this monster challenge.  I’ve been mucking about with this thing, studying and obsessing and painting and scraping and repainting, and it just wasn’t quite coming together as I envisioned it.  More importantly, it wasn’t coming together as the client envisioned it.  But, with the discovery last week of the “missing piece”, which in this case happened to be the perfect, lovely, soft, lively greyish brownish bluish greenish color that I needed for critical areas, the whole painting pivoted around.  Suddenly, I can see it!  More importantly, I can see the finish line, and (dare I say?) I’m feeling pretty confident about pulling this off.
This year, I’ve set a few ambitious goals for myself.  One of them is this blog.  (Sigh.)  Another is a log book of every piece of art I complete.  (I have a computer program for the bookkeeping part of this, but nothing that really allows me to get in there and write detail.)  I’m making a list of what works in each piece, what didn’t work, and what I would have done differently.  Since I’m aiming to complete one piece a month this year, I hope to have a pretty good little reference book by the time 2017 rolls around.