But now, I eyed them and contemplated whether I dared to take a paint brush to them. Is a painting ever done? It seemed that my semi-abstract paintings were the most challenging. The originals often had happy accidents that resulted in an effect that I couldn’t seem to re-create. Then in a moment of bravery I began to destroy my paintings.
I find that it is very difficult to destroy in order to create, yet some of my favorite work has arisen from such actions, once totally painting over a painting and turning the subtle image that remained into a new artwork. I admire people who don’t hesitate to start anew, confident that they will land on their feet. I’ve had to learn to take those leaps and there is always a swallow-hard moment that precedes them. Whether it is painting out a painting, or leaving a job to venture out on one’s own, each requires an act of letting go, ending one path to find another. I suspect there is a constellation of traits that define those of us who struggle with such choices. I’m a bit of a packrat, not good at getting rid of things. I keep them for history or because I might want them some day or simply because I don’t know what to do with them. But I admire my friends with streamlined lives and aspire to at least move in that direction. I think it is by letting go that we make room for the new and that is true in life as well as in paintings.
Five years ago I made that leap in my own life, leaving a career in finance to focus on my artwork and family and cultural history. And there were quite a few swallow-hard moments that preceded that. It wasn’t that I didn’t paint or explore family history while I worked, but I did it in a different way, not as intensely, not as focused and not as much in the flow, letting the process unfold. I do consult periodically, but my new life has gradually been expanding to fill the available space. In the period since I left my job I’ve gone in new directions. I did my first solo show, followed by many more and then several international shows. I began to do public speaking about my artwork and family history and discovered that when you enjoy what you do, it is a natural next step to share it. And when you are passionate about what you do, that enthusiasm is contagious. I discovered the power of story and began exploring that further in my artwork and I started painting in series because a stand alone painting wasn’t enough to tell the stories I wanted to tell. Before long I was creating multi-dimensional projects because the stories demanded it. I began to partner with organizations and individuals and I accessed technology, creating web sites, video-editing and yes, blogging. Often I traveled to find the stories I painted. In recent years I’ve spent a total of four months overseas in eleven countries. Had you told me five years ago that was what I would be doing, I might have not had so many swallow-hard moments, but I would have missed out on the joy of discovering each new opportunity on my path.
So I’ve learned that letting go of “good enough” while hard, is a necessary step to get to something that I may find more satisfying, whether in a painting or in my life. And as for those paintings, I left my studio pleased with my newly re-created paintings. We’ll see how they appear when I view them with fresh eyes today.