Posted on November 19 2017
I’ve always considered myself a lazy painter. I don’t like to spend long on a canvas or wall, I get bored of an idea quite quickly and I like shortcuts. I’m not impatient as such- I know how to let a process be and I understand the absolute importance of delayed gratification. I don’t think I’m a particularly lazy person- I work reasonably hard, or definitely have done so at times. I think the interesting thing is the idea of lazy and how I used to really struggle with reconciling how I felt about painting to how I thought I “should” paint. For a while I had weird thoughts about how I “should” take longer on a painting for it to be worth something. Or that I “should” labour over a painting for it to have meaning. Then I realised my work is worth what it’s worth because I CAN realise an image quite quickly and the meaning for me lies in the courage it takes to experiment. The excitement for me is in not knowing how it’s going to turn out- just that I have an emotion I’m working from and that’s the guiding force in a piece- which is why commissions are hard but that’s a whole other post.
I haven’t been painting for very long- I really only started concentrating on painting in 2010 when I came back to Perth from London. I dabbled a bit in 2006 before I left for London and I painted a bit while away- actually scrap that- I’ve been physically painting since around 2006 but I have been aware of my creative process and thoughts since studying fashion and textiles at Tafe in 2000. Before that I did painting electives in high school but I never really identified with them. They were about blending and making things look like things. I wanted short cuts, fast results and experimentation (I’m not sure I knew that then but it became apparent when studying with John Greeuw at Tafe). Plus I didn’t feel I had enough life experience to paint about anything. Likewise in Tafe- I was 18… just starting to understand who I was- actually that probably happened 10 years later but whatever. I remember an assessment in second year where we had to talk about our creative process- I talked about organic forms and high contrast- all very visual things because I didn’t know what the hell I had to say about anything! I hadn’t experienced life yet or at least I couldn’t decipher life yet. My feedback was “is that all there is to you?”. Pretty much. It’s like studying English Lit in high school. Those line breaks in poetry really messed me up. And T.S Elliott??? I was all… “WHAT ARE THESE WORDS?!?!"
It was only really in third year that I started to understand that I work very well under high stress situations and that usually the first idea I came up with was usually the one I was happy with. Any more work on it usually took away it’s potency and made it contrived and confused the absolute bejesus out of me. That part felt pretty easy- the hard part was reconciling my way of working with the school schedule- 2 weeks for research, 4 weeks for design development and realisation, 2 weeks to make it. I usually did all of it in about 2 weeks so at the end of second year I started a fashion label and did that in my spare time. See- not so lazy after all. Ha.
I think the super important thing in figuring out how you work best is having moments of feeling “right” and letting yourself feel that. The voice in your head that chastises you for each and every little move is the thing that will suffocate you and make creating a completely unpleasant experience. That voice comes from everywhere and it's shitty that those voices in our head are often louder than the “go me!” voice validating how we feel. I blame religion and consumerism but whatever- there’s many reasons those voices exist. The key is to shut them the hell up. Learn to do what feels good and don’t feel guilty about it (this doesn’t mean being a jerk in the rest of your life- small shifts not big blanket approaches). Creating things with your hands- especially something so naked as painting and drawing- is the most revealing thing you can do. It’s why people are terrified of it and say “oh I can’t even draw a stick figure” which is weird because a stick figure is literally the one thing everyone can draw. People should say “oh I can’t draw a life like representation of a horse”. Thing is they can- they just haven’t been taught the short cuts- or tried it. No one can pick up a bloody pencil and draw a life like representation of a horse- you need training!
Anyway I digress. The point is- be aware of your thoughts when you’re creating. Listen to them, face them head on and try to understand where they come from. Hold a mirror up and confront that beast. Then you can be free to play and frolic and create lines and brush strokes and marks that don’t mean anything and aren’t terrifying. I mean that may take sometime and don’t get crazy at yourself if it does take a while (that fricking voice again). It’s a process- its like yoga or meditation. You have to keep coming back and facing yourself. And not through a filter on your phone.
Wow that got preachy huh. Sorry. I start out talking about my process then I turn into Tony Robbins (who I secretly love. But I also realise he's quite damaging to the psyche. But I love him. But not the crazy music and jumping at his seminars. Has anyone seen that doco on Netflix? MENTAL.).