It’s a curious thing when you’ve been away from painting for so long, and then restart. You wonder, firstly, whether you can still paint… (I’m not kidding). You wonder if it’s going to be like riding a bicycle – once learnt, always remembered, or whether your skills have gone AWOL… permanently.
Secondly, even if you find you can still paint, you worry that your previously hard earned style has gone and left the building. After all, in my case, a lot of water has passed under the bridge since I painted last. I’m a few years older for a start and, in some ways, I’m a different person to the one I was back then. The stuff of life has happened; preferences have changed.
So, let me tell you what I’ve discovered during this past couple of months that I’ve re-entered the world of painting. Firstly, yes, I can paint. But, my thinking around what that means has changed. I used to think that being a ‘painter’ came only after years of practice and dedication, whereas these days I tend to think that painting (or any art making for that matter) is no more, and no less, than an act of personal expression. So yes, I can paint, but then so can anybody.
Something else that’s changed for me in the interim is what I see as my goal in painting. I used to paint to create a pretty picture (not that I ever admitted it at the time!) that would hopefully garner some kudos. Yep, the focus was well and truly on the outcome. But, time and wisdom has changed all that. While I still obviously hope to achieve a good outcome, I’m far more interested in the process itself, i.e. the act of painting. More specifically, I’m intrigued by the way in which I engage with the painting; how ‘who I am’ gets expressed into visual form.
So, it turns out that letting go, working intuitively and seeing what shows up is, for me, the way back in to painting.
As for my style, well… it stands to reason that there will be a settling in phase. As I said, a lot’s changed since I painted last, and my painting has to catch up with the rest of me. Not surprisingly, my first finished painting (the one above – acrylics on stretched canvas, 30 x 30 inches) looks a lot like the way I used to paint. Given it was my first proper foray back into painting, I was feeling a little tentative and apprehensive when I painted it and wanted to make a good impression (yep, that need to please is a hard thing to let go!) so it felt easier to simply fall back into a way of painting I felt comfortable with.
My second painting (see below) – acrylics on stretched canvas, 40 x 40 inches), however, shows a little more style progression. Having gained some confidence from completing the first painting, I allowed myself to ‘let go’ more with this painting and to take a risk. I used a number of alternative tools (including my hands), and allowed more peeping through of previous layers. I pushed myself, whilst still retaining a foothold on my existing style, and the resulting painting is a bit bolder and more energetic. There’s also more evidence of my physical interaction with it. There is, I think, still a sense of it being polished and painterly, rather than raw and riotous, but for it to be otherwise wouldn’t be true to my sensibilities… and that’s something I’ve learned to be totally okay with.