When I started painting, and stuff stopped looking ugly and started look somewhat okay, friends and family started to
request things. And back then when people requested stuff, I was still struggling with the creative process so much I was grateful for the specific requests. It helped take the idea part out of the art.
Now, some time later, the ideas are almost always there, but the time isn’t so I take less and less requests. Unless the request comes from my mother. Then of course you have to take it. I mean it is my mom, right?
I done stuff for her before after all, so I thought no big deal.
So last summer, mom asked if I would do a canvas for her that had the Robert Browning quote, “Grow old with me, the best is yet to be” on it. She wanted it to go in her bedroom so request it to be in shades of grey-blue. Okay sure that sounded easy enough.
I grabbed a canvas and painted it the requested shade of paint and hand wrote in the quote and stepped back. Then I immediately grabbed the white gesso and erased the whole thing. I hated it. It wasn’t my kind of art, and I certainly couldn’t give my mom it, even though it was exactly what she asked for.
Thus began the four month process of trying to paint for the person I love most. There was this fine line of doing what she requested, and still staying true to who I am as an artist.
Then there was the other problem. I mean this was for my mom. The one person in this world who opinion really, really matters to me. I mean what if she didn’t like it? What if she was disappointed? What if? What if? What if?
I have painted a lot of requests over this art journey and none of them were as debilitating as this. Nothing was right. I liked none of it. And trust me there are layers and layers of paint on this canvas, tweaking and adjusting and correcting what I thought I had to do.
Then in an act of desperation, a week ago, as the deadline for her birthday loomed, I poured some high flow white acrylic onto the canvas, and let it drip.
You know that moment when you know instantly that you’ve made a huge mistake. Yeah, that was the kind of moment it was. The paper towels came out and I was trying to rescue the canvas. And that mistake and clean up turned into something. In that mistake the willow tree was born and the canvas finally started to have a real direction.
Will my mom love it? Probably, if for no other reason because I painted it for her and she loves me.
Did I learn something? Yes, painting for people you love is hard. There is more pressure there to get it right, and perfect, and exact. The weight of the finished project is more.
And I learned I can’t paint for others anymore. Not that I can’t take requests, but I can’t worry about what they are going to think. I have to paint for me and if others don’t love it, then whatever.
That is the thing with art. There is not a right and wrong. There is only an opinion. You either like it or you don’t. But if I don’t like it, then there was never a point in painting it in the first place.