Moments of Crisis

No matter how well you plan, how meticulous your thoughts and re-thoughts, the moment you come to start a new project is fraught with anxiety. I've just begun a new painting, and in my head I know exactly how I want it to be: where each line will go, how the paint textures will match and how the subtle blending of the colours will realise the subject profoundly.  

So dutifully I set up the space in which to paint - moving existing crap, choosing likely colours to make a palate, checking the brushes are okay and fighting with the child-lock on the Turps cap. I fix up the easel , wedging it where necessary in order to pre-empt its tendency to fall at exactly the wrong moment. I dip my brush and...

This is when it hits - the rush of 'what ifs': what if you miss the canvas? What if you splodge the paint? What if you get the line wrong? What if it looks like shit! For me, at least, the first mark sets the tone - and the confidence with which it is delivered determines the success of the painting. Sometimes this is because the sketch is spot on and the composition works. Other times it is becuase the first line tells you that it won't work - not on this one, and you change it. 

Yet begin with uncertainty and the mark stays with you, slowly the painting follows the horror of Dorian Gray - taking on your emotional vulnerability and warping into a psychological force that repels any attempt you have to bend it to your will. You walk away - determined that space will let you re-evaluate the situation and identify what's wrong; but the image taunts you, aware that it has possessed your personality, making you twitchy, paranoid, snappy. Until finally you barricade the offending object in your own attic, or chuck a tin of paint over it (depending on your ability to manage stress).

In that moment of readiness, that breath before beginning, is the fear and excitment of creation; the rub between triumph and disaster. It is when you know you are an artist, and you swallow, smile and start.

Splodge.  Oh shit!