I wanted to share a current work in progress, and take this opportunity to talk about stepping outside of your comfort zone.
I remember in my undergraduate degree, I was in a printmaking course. The assignment was to take some prints and make them into some kind of book work. We had been given a bookbinding tutorial and it looked really interesting to me, so I tried my hand at making a hard covered and bound book with my delicate prints inside. The process was a struggle for me, I was not very precise, I had glue everywhere, and there was definitely room for improvement.
My printmaking professor at the time knew me fairly well. When she critiqued my artwork she very bluntly told me: Look, there is glue showing here. The binding is coming apart. It’s not a great book. What you need to do, Lenore, is realize that you are a messy artist. And rather than trying to make neat looking work, you should just accept that you are a messy artist, and just make artwork that looks messy on purpose. That is when you do your best work.
I thought that was amazing advice (and still do), advice that gave me permission to stop beating myself up for not being able to make art the way some of my friends could. It made me realize that although when I was trying to make neat art and it was a disaster, there were neat artists that could not make my messy work. So I continued on, with my messy artwork, my flowing painterly lines, and I gave up on trying to make anything look neat or perfect.
Lebreton Flat Work In Progress – Acrylic on Canvas 2’x3′
If you look through my portfolio over the past few years, you will primarily see portraits and figures of people. I have somehow slid into a pattern of painting portraits since my friend passed away a few years ago. I was feeling a bit bored with it and wanted to do something new. I started looking through some photos that I had taken on a walk one evening near Lebreton Flats, and noticed one that I really liked, looking towards Parliament. I decided to try and paint it.
Now I’m sure you’re looking at the work in progress above thinking, there is nothing neat or precise about that painting. However, spending hours upon hours painting tiny windows on tiny buildings with tiny lights and tiny glares really took me outside of my comfort zone. Typically, I can’t do straight lines. However, each time I step back from this painting, I feel I’ve surprised myself. I think, despite the straight lines and squares, that it’s turning into a good painting.
More than anything, this painting has made me step away from portraits and try something different. It’s helped me find an entirely new way of expressing myself. It has reinvigorated something within me and my art, it has taken me out of my bored place.
That being said, I don’t think I am about to turn into a neat, precise artist who uses right angles and straight lines. I stand by my professors’ advice, a decade ago, that I am a messy artist. However, it’s good to have a reminder that sometimes we get too comfortable and need to shake things up.