Since the summer, I felt the pull towards something new yet familiar. I noticed, slowly, quietly, my painting style started to change. In some way, the change was familiar. I draw quite a bit. Lingering in a garden, as a passenger in a car – I record the impressions my surroundings make on me. These little drawings are very innocent and tender. While they record a likeness of the environment, my sketches always include a sensation.
Sometimes, it’s the luscious sound of the wind through the plants and grasses.
Or the melodic bending of a leaf reaching toward the sky or ground.
These sensations are always accessible to me when I look back at my work. As I page through my old sketchbooks or look at my finished paintings and photos, it’s more than just a visual record. My abstract paintings – for me – are particularly expressive. The amorphous compositions either captured a time of day, a feeling, or invoked a mood of peacefulness in some ineffable way.
But other people struggled to see it.
How do you teach someone to see or experience what you are feeling? This question followed me around like a lost puppy. I wanted to ignore it, a happy servant to the style and routine I created for myself. But that pesky question was unrelenting. It seemed like an impossible question – how can I invite someone into my experience through my work?
I soon realized that I had to change.
Truthfully, the change happened on its own – but I was more aware of it because I could see my style evolving right before my eyes. I started to use a much larger scale. I stretched my own canvases instead of working on board. I also approached the canvas with a very clear idea of the composition.
Some of the same challenges occurred. While I had specific ideas, the compositions would take on a life of their own. The paint would move or change in a way that departed from my vision, but often times in a much more interesting way that I had originally planned. Each step forward seemed totally uncertain. I didn’t know what I was doing, and wondered if I was really capable of something new, something better.
My generally good mood dipped and swayed from feeling so unsure. What scared me the most about change? That so much of my identity was wrapped up in a static idea of myself. Changing required giving up the charade that my past dictates my present.
I had to give up the belief that who I am now is merely an echo of who I was from my past experiences. Part of my identity will always be changing. As I started to let go, I noticed how other people responded. People seemed delighted to look at my new paintings. They smiled when they looked at them. My experiment with a new style seemed to stir something in the viewer. They might not hear the sound of the breeze, or feel the gentle afternoon sunlight warming their face – but they felt a small moment of happiness. One that I felt, too.
So I walk along, becoming more comfortable with the uncertainty. Change requires trusting the process. But if you look at even the most beautiful garden, it started from tiny seeds.
You can see more images of my artistic process here.