Sometimes it feels like I waste a lot of time in my studio. I work pretty regular hours, 9am – 3 or 4pm most days. I have days when I teach, or have to do errands. Sometimes I quit early to meet a friend for a cup of tea. But mostly I am in by 9 and go for about 6 hours.
In spite of that, I often feel like I don’t get a lot done. And once I am in the studio, I might not put any paint down until 10:30 or 11am. What am I doing in there?
I might be thinking about the different paintings that I am working on, choosing which one I will work on today. Then deciding what I will do to it, what comes next. I might be sketching ideas into my studio journal, or looking up notes I have made on a painting and thinking about whether I want to follow them.
It is winter in Australia. Our days are short, light is precious. If I pick up my brushes at 11am soon it is lunchtime. Sometimes I am straight into it after lunch, but after 30 minutes or 45 I may have to stop again. I sit, I stare at the painting. I write notes to myself. I stare some more. I imagine: ‘what if I make it darker here? or should it be there?’ I sit and seem to do nothing. If I am stuck, I might remember how some other artist approached a similar situation. I go to my bookshelves and see if I can find a book with the painting that I am thinking of. I look for 15 minutes, maybe I find it. Maybe I decide that their approach isn’t helpful, or maybe it sparks some idea.
Making art is not efficient. There is no right way to do it. I am trying to paint something that I have never painted before. I don’t know what I am doing. I may know a lot about painting, but I don’t know a lot about this painting. It is a discovery, a journey to a place I have never been before. I don’t know how to get there.