Like the kid (and the dad) in the Disneyland ad, I’m “too excited” to sleep. It’s a good feeling. Anticipation is one of the greater pleasures of love, travel, painting. Knowing that something exciting is going to happen, and more or less how, gives vitality. You set yourself up for it.
We all know the feeling when looking at a work-in-progress or even a blank canvas. You have an idea how the forms and spaces will evolve, how a look or a feel will be. There’s a sense of exploration about to happen, yes, but there’s also the “rightness” of your particular process. For me, getting the priming just right is currently important, as is thinking about the design and composition, and the ongoing dream that brushwork will remain fresh. It’s possible to remember previous ventures when magic happened. It’s possible to remember sustained periods of concert pitch. “Why not today?” we ask ourselves. At times like this it’s good to take a deep breath and ask the blessings of the Goddess of Patience and other personal Deities. For many of us a quality approach includes honoring the surface with a complex battery of private prejudices. Some may prefer violence, others the most circumspect tenderness. We all have our way.
I’m sitting in an F28 Twin-jet heading toward the Arctic Circle. The faces around me shine with anticipation. Our dogs are barking enthusiastically from their sky-kennels in the cargo hold. We’ve done our homework. The maps are out. There are new brushes in the carry-on. The vast land of Canada’s Northwest Territories scrolls beneath us. It’s a big canvas.
PS: “’Tis expectation makes a blessing dear,
Heaven were not heaven, if we knew what it were.” (Sir John Suckling)
Esoterica: There are two parallel acts — assembling materials and assembling plans. This calculated outfitting is at the root of all and sets the stage for both laughter and tears.
The following are selected responses to this and other letters. Thank you for writing.
Great security in insecurity
Anticipation yes, but it’s important not to plan too much. Not knowing how things will turn out is the basis of great creativity. Many times when I have walked into the studio bored and at a loss what to do next—the greatest burst of new and different work appears. For me, it’s as if a mistake in planning has to take place.
I have been painting for 8 years, was a potter from 1977 to 1992, and am giving up the idea of selling my work. I am tired of working soooo hard and not going anywhere, but in circles. There doesn’t seem to be a place for my work. I will paint but on a smaller scale. Everything ends up in storage and collects dust!! Although I love the process and the spirit in it all, I have to pay my bills. I have applied for a job, and finally, will be able to make an income.
After I saw the movie “Pollock” with Ed Harris, I was so disturbed that I wrote “The Happy Healthy Artist Manifesto,” as a means of combating that old, nasty notion of artists as suffering and at war with themselves.
Pamela Simpson Lussier
My husband and I are both working artists. We also have three children each from previous marriages. Finding a balance is a constant struggle. Today is the eve of our first wedding anniversary and in retrospect, I think we had a pretty good year. The children are all happy, healthy and doing well in school. We have all learned to work together so that our house is fairly clean and artwork is produced and homework gets done. I don’t think we did as much artwork as we would have liked but we took the time to lay the groundwork for balance and orderliness. I’m sure next year will be more productive. Painting is the central focus of our life, but having six children around us helps to balance us.
A deferred dream
Elle Fagan, Conneticut, USA
An exciting month for me! Today I got the keys to my studio. I have worked steadily and the value of my work has risen, and I have the beginnings of the business I began before my injury… I am laughing because, I guess it was relief. It would be normal for me to go into town with friends to celebrate, and I will tomorrow, but after showing the key to the studio door to a work partner, I think I fainted, or something, with relief, woke up, tried to bring myself around and fell asleep again — the sleep of the just? I first looked for my studio nearly ten years ago, when my accident, misdiagnosed at first, with its degenerative behaviours tripping me up at every step, made what should have been an effortless project, the logical evolution of lifelong artwork, into a major endeavor. I have had good care and my focus has been lightened. I have found healing and integration of my work and personal life again “with a little help from my friends!” What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Stay tuned… we’ll see what kind of work comes from this deferred dream!
>Success breeds confidence
Jannine Anne Grove
I was contemplating the quote by Eric Maisel, “A creative block is the wall we erect to ward off the anxiety we suppose we’ll experience if we sit down to work.” And then your letter came about anticipation, a sister-emotion to anxiety. Both are derived from not knowing, before the event. Unknowns can produce fear or excitement. Do we have any control of this? Anticipation, on the one hand, is a great feeling because all possibilities are there to imagine. A blank canvas can pump up the energy in this way, and confidence to excecute is the key. “Confidence is preparation. Everything else is beyond your control.” (Richard Kline) If we lack the memories of past successes, which can only come from working diligently, we will only experience anxiety in front of a blank canvas. “Success breeds confidence.” (Beryl Markham)
Open for business
Anticipation has a great deal to do with an openness to what the day will bring. Optimism when entering the work area or the studio goes a long way toward happy invention and the completion of work. “Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.” (James Joyce)
The Pleasure of Anticipation
Deciding not to pull the strings
On arms and legs and all those things
Point & focus both the lenses
Enjoy the pleasure of the senses
Remember, the pleasure of anticipation
The very act of doing nothing
Is only for the safe and trusting
When every fibre is vibrating
Watching, waiting, anticipating
Remember the pleasure of anticipation
Into our lives we do invite
Those who help us see the light
Let go all the hate & fear
Just enjoy the being here
Remembering the pleasure of anticipation
D W Perkins, Redding, UK
With all of the practicalities we artists have to be concerned about, there is still time for wonder. Without this capacity for wonder—whether it is for the world as we know it—or the wonder of the facility of our imaginations—there can be no art. We need to be constantly thankful for this. “If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive.” (Eleonora Duse)
Battling the dragons
Deborah Russell, Lutherville, Maryland, USA
Many times I have stood desperately in front of the easel and battled fire breathing dragons and demons! It is such a continuous battle, and at times I feel like St Joan. In reality, sadly enough, it would be weeks before I would slice through the undergrowth to make a few steps to freedom. I’ve always had to clear skeletons out of the closets and toss away worn clothing before the comfort of creativity would cover me with yet another painter’s cloak. Right now I have a fine white canvas measuring 3′ x 4′ awaiting! I’m off to battle the briars, thorns and vines and other nasty little entanglements — wish me a rewarding journey.
He designs projects during sleep
Nic East, Home Hill Forge, Jim Thorpe, PA, USA
I found that I used to work better on weekends when I was running my companies. Now that I’m retired, I can have all the contemplative time I can consume. I need challenges to stimulate me to that frenetic, slam-dunk workaholic frenzy that gets lots of stuff created efficiently and in quicktime. I get my best ideas first thing in the morning before I’m fully awake. Sometimes I design a whole project in my sleep. I think it is about self-permission to extend your energies that makes things move along. If you give yourself permission to become unlimited, guess what happens?