Monday, July 7, 2014

The Blank Page: Starting Again

Strategies. Comparisons.  

After a painting break, I use various strategies to get back into painting again since the previous work flow has been interrupted and I need a new place to begin.  I had a really lovely week-long beach vacation and am feeling refreshed and ready to go (back to work)!

sometimes I start with just a color and an image of a previous painting

And it is in these times that I remember how hard it can be to start; the feeling of "stuck-ness" that can come from approaching the blank page.  In these times, I think to the words of John Cage that the paralysis can be broken by "beginning anywhere."  To pick something and start (easier said than done, right?).  It's a good practice to find a limitation, to select something whether that be a certain color, a line, a found image, or a piece of fabric.  By simply selecting something you rule out many other possibilities and narrow your focus.  Or, in the words of Joan Didion:

"What's so hard about that first sentence is that you're stuck with it.  Everything else is going to flow out of that sentence. And by the time you've laid down the first two sentences, your options are all gone." 
(this quote is from American aurthor Joan Didion as quoted in Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles & Ted Orland)

or sometimes to start I need to get out a lot of different supplies and just "play" (and make a mess)

or sometimes I take an old abandoned painting, like this one, and start over...

...and that painting became this painting!

Another approach I like to use is to go back and look at older work because after a long laps of time since seeing an image it feels fresh and new again.  Then I also look for patterns in the work, and notice tendencies I had not noticed before (what are the items in my "visual vocabulary"?)  For example, this painting I made in 2006....

Blush 24x24 inches acrylic and fabric on canvas 2006

...and this painting I made in 2012 and while the mark making has become more tame, the colors and way value was used is similar, like in those "stripes."  It can be illuminating to make those comparisons, and there will be things I notice in common between the two which can give me a starting place for today.

Minty Shore 20x20 acrylic on canvas 2012

Do you have strategies you use to start painting after a break?  Or in whatever creative realm you work in, like song writing or sewing?

I would love to hear what you do.  I'll share more later on in the blog, so stay tuned.

Happy Monday!  ( I actually kind of love Mondays since there is so much possibility for the week ahead)  Here's to starting!


  1. With me it's definitely writing. I use pinterest a lot, to form story boards and collect relevant links, and that keeps me going through the inspiration-less days. Sometimes things just click, and a character pops into my head. Then I have to sit down and just write - start with a description, or a feeling, and write through the fog until something emerges and suddenly there's new characters, spontaneous dialogue, interesting back-story. But it takes the mechanics of sitting down and actually writing to get to that point.

  2. Hi Becca, I love what you said about writing "through the fog." I feel like I paint through the fog (well, most days even). I whole-heartedly believe in what you said about the importance of sitting down and just writing (even when you are not feeling so inspired). It seems that when you do, you are giving yourself a chance for something to happen. From my own experiences in the studio I know that if I can just get the paint brush moving, thats when good stuff can happen (since lightning doesn't strike very often). Pinterest is such a great tool, I love looking back at what I've collected and seeing patterns emerge; its greatly satisfying. Thanks for your comment!