“Do you know," Peter asked, "why swallows build in the eaves of houses? It is to listen to the stories.” ~ J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan


Sunday's almost-painting

Sunday is the most stressful day of the week for me. Makes no sense, I know, but there it is. It's just waiting for me at the end of all those other days, chock-a-block full of stuff I'm supposed to do, stuff I need to do, stuff I never actually get to, stuff I stress about. A large part of that is art stuff. I feel so pressured to get so much done that I do nothing. 2 days a week off, year in, year out, leaves very little time for actual art. I once dated a guy whose brother is now a hot shot artist (did 2 Christmas cards for the Clintons while they were in the Whitehouse). This brother used to be head of the art department or advertising or something at one of the biggest national magazines around - it will remain nameless, but trust me, you've read it. He would always plan to paint on the weekends, but he eventually realized he didn't paint on the weekends. He wanted to relax on the weekends. He wanted to be still. Me too. Making art is not & never has been relaxing for me - it wipes me out emotionally, mentally, physically. I want no contact with anyone else. I don't want to worry that someone will drop in & I'm wearing pj bottoms & a muscle shirt. I'm a mess. But that doesn't happen - the phone always rings, there's laundry to deal with (and here I will mention that the washer & dryer are part of my "studio" so dealing with the resultant noise, heat & humidity adds to my aggravation, adds to my not wanting to do it), people to see. It stops me, and I'm not a fast painter to begin with. I'm an agonizer, I'm a "I-don't-know"-er, I have to stop & rethink & redo & rethink again. It's a complicated, totally intuitive process that requires aloneness & silence. It's a lot of pressure to put on one day of the week. I kind of feel sorry for Sunday. (Saturday's job is run errands; if I paint on Saturday, that just delays those errands to Sunday, adding more pressure to an already stressful day.)

The little gessoed canvas pictured above is all I got done yesterday. It was to be a painting for a friend, who's just been diagnosed with a very serious illness. I wanted to paint something for her that would be calming. So I tried. And tried. And tried. And tried. You can see where the ginkgo leaf was - ginkgo for longevity. There was a bird there at one point. It was silver, blue-green, pearl white, then silver again. Nothing worked. I finally pulled off the ginkgo leaf & gessoed over the thing again. I work like this a lot. It's part of what gives my work the texture it has. It's a lot of indecision. No, strike that. It's actually quite decisive - I know something's not going to work, so I don't use it. I go on. Anyway. I so wanted to post a photo of the finished painting - I was so sure it would be easy, it would be done. But Sunday had its say. I agonized, I sweated, I said no to everything. Then this morning I had a conversation with this friend, and during the conversation she mentioned an experience she'd had a few years ago - and I knew where this painting is supposed to go. The ginkgo leaf will still be there in the background.

PS - My ex-boyfriend's brother? He quit his extremely high-paying, stable, prestigious job at that magazine & began to paint full time. He got famous - he made lots of bucks. I hope he got happier.


  1. funny how creative people function in strange ways... i'm quite certain the finished painting will be a success :)

    i have never particularly liked sundays either...

  2. Hmmmm...
    I'm not a painter, but my dad and my brother both make their livings as painters. And I have observed them. The one thing I notice about my brother, especially, is that it is never EVER about the finished product. His paintings are full of texture because he paints over his work, just for the sake of it. He loves the process. He never considers a painting to be finished, unless it is sold.

    So, maybe it's just about letting go and respecting the process, because whatever the end result may be, it will be an accumulation of all the different processes you danced your way around...sometimes in frustration, sometimes in joy or serendipity. I think it says a great deal about how much heart you put into each piece of art you create. You create such beautiful pieces!

  3. you feel sorry for sundays? i do too. poor sunday :( the bane of all working folks who wish they had a month of saturdays or even fridays at hand for painting, writing, drawing or picture taking. sigh..but sunday probably feels lucky rather than pitiful. it gets to spend all day with you in that studiomat holding it's breath, trying to keep quiet. waiting to see what happens when you both let go of .... everything else but yourself, sunday and the canvas.

    i truly love how you described your process for that gessoed canvas. it seemed so right and natural. i am a completely intuitive creator as well and it can be mighty frustrating and even worrisome at times...not relaxing in the least. what if i never have another creative thought! yikes! but then there it is... just like you said ...you find you do know what you want to do after all. it just happens even if it is on a monday!

  4. well i must say that painting

    i love it's simplicity and
    gentle presence ~ and it
    has a stunning energy in it's

    oh i used to have the washer and
    dryer in my artists space as well
    and it drove me MAD so i put
    it in the mud room:)



  5. Polona - Thank you. I'm hoping it will be what I see in my head, but I have no doubt that it won't. Which leads me to . . .

    Jaime - I am so like your brother. It is NEVER about the finished product. It's about the doing. And I've noticed that I'm becoming kinder to myself while painting over & painting over, that I'm accepting that this is the way I work, this is the way it's supposed to be for me. I'm hoping I will eventually love that process & stop agonizing over it. I always leave parts of the painted over/gessoed over "mistakes" there, so that the history of the painting shows.

    Robin - How kind you are to say that Sunday gets to spend its time with ME. I never thought of it that way. I can just see Sunday whispering in my ear that it will be okay, to just take a breath, to just let it flow. A new way to see this day. I really like that.

    And Maddie - Thank you! I hope the quietness stays in the piece. It's part of why I stopped when I did - I could just feel the craziness bouncing off me into the paint & I definitely did not want THAT! And, oh . . . perhaps the day will come when I have more space to work in! I am visualizing this. Bigger paintings, more room, more light. That is an idea to hang onto. :)

    Thanks to you all!
    Love, Debi

  6. i'm so glad to know i'm not the only one who struggles with the creative process. on the bright side tho', i think the ginko image/texture is very cool and i love the idea that that ghost will remain there behind whatever you choose to paint on top.

    i do so love gesso. :-)

    one piece of advice..i think you have to paint somewhere else. you can't paint with your washer and dryer in the room. that's just not right! the mundane next to the sublime just sounds wrong!


    p.s. see, i did visit again, despite the reagan thing. :-)

  7. Julie - Glad you're here!!!

    I wish I had somewhere else to paint, but, alas, alas, I don't. It's a small apartment, and the washer & dryer are actually sitting in what's supposed to be the dining area, and well, never mind, I could go on & on. I'm hoping to reach the point where, like Jaime's brother, I enjoy the process - for me that would mean accepting that the first 2 or 3 things down are not going to be the finished product. However, I constantly think that THIS time I'll get it on the first try - when I can just truly understand that the first try is just that - a try - and move on, I'll be a happier gal!



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