Friday, November 27, 2015

Getting Back on the Horse

Copyright © Edward Riojas

Writer’s block is common. Perhaps it isn’t as common as you’d sometimes like, given this blog, but I digress. Among artists, the equivalent of writer’s block is often an ugly spectre. There are all sorts of reasons to leave the brushes untouched; to avoid an empty canvas.

It recently happened to me. Through a messy cocktail of disjointed ingredients, my paint and pencils and drawing board and easel were left unattended for months. First, it was the completion of a painting for ArtPrize that necessitated building a frame in my wood shop. Then there were scads of cruciform shapes to construct and painting surfaces to prepare. Then came ArtPrize. Then went ArtPrize. Then came a cold – thanks to ArtPrize. Then sleep – too much sleep.

I knew it was time to get back into the 3 a.m. groove, but the summer days had lapsed into darkening autumn days, which in turn produced lengthening shadows of excuses.

It took a monstrous effort, but I finally got up early one morning and began unscrewing caps off hardened tubes of paint. Pliers were needed on every tube. And I began to paint.

The simple act of laying on paint became the point. I didn’t need to do something exquisitely beautiful – I just needed to do something. It’s called discipline.
“St. Mark” (Work in progress,
from a Gospel Processional

In art school, I had to do 100 pages of sketches for each drawing class credit. Courses were worth four credits, and I once had to double up on the drawing credits. 800 pages of sketches in one semester, on top of everything else. The painful exercises were training for future days when inspiration was lacking. Don’t feel like doing much? Too bad.

On that early morning, a couple of hours after I began painting, I was looking at a diminutive face of a saint whose intelligent eyes seemed to ask, “Why didn’t you paint me sooner?” I didn’t answer. I just went on to paint the next face.

For writers, two words elegantly strung together are sometimes sufficient to get one’s feet back into the stirrups. For artists, perhaps it’s a couple of marks. But there is no way anyone will make two marks – unless they first make one.

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