Let's talk about fear for a second.
Do you ever feel like you tighten up as you go along with your painting, trying to reach the finish? I don't just mean refinement. I mean, the feeling that you're getting smaller and smaller into your painting, yet not feeling like you're getting closer to the end?
Or you're clinging on to a well-established method of painting that tells you that you're supposed to follow exact steps to go from A to B to C and when that doesn't get you to where you want to be in your painting, you feel lost or defeated.
What that is, is in fact your attempt to hide yourself in the painting. Think about it. This process of rendering out a face, or a knee, or leaf petals, whatever... What are you not doing? You've lost sight of the big picture and what you're trying to say with what you're actually painting.
And what that translates to is fear.
So what are you afraid of?
I took a sander to these pieces to knock down some of the texture and try to reveal some of the underlying layers. I also destroyed some of the painting in the process. I know that this was going to happen before I turned on my sander, of course.
One lesson I learned from everyone who has mastered their art craft is that they have no fear of their materials. There is also a detachment from any one stage of the process. They invite the evolution of the process, and some in fact purposely destroy parts of their work to force themselves into a place of problem-solving.
In a way, creativity is a result of problem-solving. When there are no problems left to solve, two things can happen. We either become bored with our situation, and that can manifest itself as creating busywork (over-rendering) or dissatisfaction("I got tired of this piece. I don't like it anymore).
If you've been following this series, you can see how much these pieces have changed since I started. Especially the one at the beginning of this article. Although I do have a good method of finishing paintings that I've honed over 17 years of painting with oils, I have a comfort with the materials that allows me to completely pivot on a piece with the confidence to know that I will eventually find the solution to my problem.
And if part of that solution requires destroyed entire sections of the piece, then so be it.
It's just paint.
We have such a grand opportunity as painters to explore the seductive nature of oil paint. The cream; the silk; the butter. All these delicious textures and feels, that, even just writing about them gets our art-mouth watering ;)
There is a lot of information about the proper way of working with oil paint that is, while useful, can be limiting. We can totally play with the paint if we let ourselves. If you're not allowing yourself the opportunity to play, what is keeping you from doing that? It's probably not the paint itself. Paint can't hurt you - ok ok just don't eat it! - OTHER THAN THAT - the paint has no ability to cause you physical harm. Being afraid of it means there is something else going on.