Extra Magic

"Boulder Dash"
Oil on canvas panel
12 x 16 inches

Have you ever been suddenly thrust into painting at dusk, when the light is about to disappear?   Or have you ever been painting and you suddenly realize that you MUST finish in some very short time period?   If you have, you probably have noticed that the actual resulting finished piece ( assuming you did so in the short given time) actually came out rather well.

You could, very well, be shaking your head and thinking "not a chance!"  Or, something along those lines.   But, if you did notice that your painting had a loose, but enticing quality about it . . . sort of like a hurried sketch does.   There is magic that happens in that short little spit of time. . . . .

It seems to me that a complete mental shift takes place under such conditions.   And that shift is to move away from worrying about being perfect, or attempting to make a "good painting."   We get into a state of haste and an attitude something like this:   "Just get something down on the canvas and I'll fix it later . . . . but for goodness sakes, HURRY!"

Do you notice the difference in thinking?   It isn't about the quality of the outcome.   The thoughts are more immediate.   In fact, I find after every stroke that my judgement steps in and says something to the effect of "close enough!   Now hurry!"   

In the short time, as the light fades, I rush to fill in the canvas and pack up.   As I do so, I see that my painting is much looser . . . .more relaxed . . . .more tuned to approximations, rather than represenations or copying.   In fact, I see something in front of me that is, frankly, charming!

This has happened to me enough to put two and two together and realize that concern for the outcome and attempting master work is my enemy.   I do much better when I am "slinging paint as fast as possible."   It is letting one's subconscious take over.   It is painting by impulsive reaction.   It is grabbing a value of color, stabbing into a spot and moving to the next spot.   In actual fact, it is relaxing the mindful tension and trusting myself.   It is reaction upon reaction upon reaction, without fussing and waiting until the end to judge what actually happened on the surface of the canvas.

Painting under pressure often has this affect.   And, it seems to me, to be a positive affect.   I just need to say to myself, when I step to the easel, "Get off it, Mike!   Just trust your instinct and put paint on the canvas!   Don't argue with it or try to adjust it.   Just do it!"