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project hot air balloon

unfinished painting

By 8:44 PM , , , ,

I started a painting in 2001. Like many projects, I never finished it. I tried to depict on canvas the push and pull I was feeling about living on one coast when deep down inside I yearned to be on the other. I had no idea how that was all going to play out in reality, so naturally, I was incapable of depicting it with any sense of finality or decision even in an imaginary space.

I had every intention of finishing the painting, but somewhere in the last 8 years, I lost steam. To tell you the truth, I painted most of it during the first weeks of starting it. And the last 8 years have only been a dust-collection period.

Well, today I went to the open studios at the Headlands Center for the Arts. I was hoping to have my fire reignited, but instead, I came away with a feeling of despondency. I didn't like any of the work and compared to how much I was inspired during my last visit, the display was sparse and lifeless. There was one interesting audio installation, but other than that, the visual art was disappointing.

After a long walk with Bootsie along the beach and then popping into my favorite non-profit organization, the Marin Mammal Center, I reflected on how I must come up with an exercise to remove the block about this painting. When I returned home, I spent a couple of hours of free associating words onto a large piece of paper. It then came to me. I was to unearth this old painting, not concern myself with finishing the piece, but instead begin a new one.

Like a tired old relationship, it's much harder to reconcile one that's broken or has gone stale. You just want to meet somebody new. But in the spirit of closure and economy, I decided to start anew by "erasing" parts of the old painting that wasn't working for me with a thick coat of gesso. That's one thing you can't do with relationships but you can accomplish with great ease in painting, with simple brushstrokes. First it was one corner and then other adjacent shapes. And before I realized, the territory had spread across the large canvas. I've successfully erased the nagging past.

These days, I have a new set of push and pulls which I must deposit here. I feel with certainty that the canvas is primed to receive the task.

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