How do you know when a work of art is finished? What are the signs that it’s time to stop, to walk away and call it good…or at least good enough? I’ve often said that painting is a metaphor for life and once again it holds true as I find it necessary to move on to a new chapter, leaving not only drawings undone but relationships unsettled and in need. In retrospect, the past six months have been one of the most difficult times in my life and also one of the most rewarding. When things fall apart there is also the hope for renewal and rebirth. And just as in the creation of a piece of art, having to work yourself out of a jam is an opportunity for something wonderful to happen.
In truth, art is never really “finished” but rather in an interesting enough state to leave it. I for one am glad perfection is elusive because I expect I would find it empty and unfulfilling. The artist Robert Henri wrote, “A painting is the trace of a magnificent struggle.” What a wonderful thought. And if my work can be messy, searching, and open ended, why not my life as well? What makes me think for one minute I’m capable of a clean get away?
Today I packed up my oil paints for the “season.” Caps long since lost or tossed aside, I stuck blue tape and plastic wrap around each tube in the hope they will last until my return. Goodbye to my red stool, my glass palette, the thrift shop vases holding my brushes. Along one wall sits blank canvases patiently awaiting my attention. They will have to wait a little longer. It’s not practical to take all this equipment to Southeast Asia and so I trade it all in for more portable media such as pencil, ink, and watercolor. This will fit in my suitcase.
My latest painting, “Waiting for the Parade,” silently accuses me of some art crime. Not yet finished but in the aforementioned interesting place, I can’t help but feel I am abandoning the anxious crowd, the buildings, the dogs. I must trust that whatever inspired me to create this piece will still be there when I return and my tubes of paint emerge from their plastic cocoons.
Art interruption indeed. On the other hand, I get to pick up where I left off back in Thailand. If I AM lucky enough to live in two places, I had better well get used to the coming and going. Perhaps my best work will happen between the cracks and in the midst of flux and transition. I’m on the lookout.
*This post is dedicated to all the wonderful people who supported me during the past six months. Thank you, thank you, thank you.