All my paintings, or at least the ones I consider the most successful, go through a stage where I completely hate them. The ones that make it from idea to actuality without passing through the hate zone just seem to be missing something. Maybe it's just in my own interpretation, because I haven't "fought" for it, but maybe it's from the lack of physical buildup of markmaking that results from reworking a piece or obscuring the surface, turning it on its head, and nearly starting over. (There was a period where I literally was spitting on my paintings during this part of the process. Talk about hate.) The easy paintings, the ones that don't feel so hard-won, make me a little wary, like the early stages of a new relationship. We haven't been through shit together, we haven't worked through the flaws, so I'm not sure it's worth it yet.
That's not to say that the hate phase is pleasant. It sucks. It's full of self-doubt and standing face-to-face with a painting so ugly that I can't not do something about it. But that's the genius in it. Without that freedom to try something, anything -- why not, there's nowhere to go but up -- and see where it goes, I get stuck in preciousness. I get so caught up on the good bits, fall so in love with them that I can't bear to lose them. Even when it's clear that the painting as a whole just isn't working and needs something drastic, I'm afraid to let the sweet spots go. Perhaps this comes from a doubt in my ability to make anything quite so perfect again. I desperately want to save a copy, so that if I completely, irreparably screw it up, I can revert back to my last saved version.
But that's not an option, and won't be, by virtue of the medium. And despite the unpleasantness of the fear and the self-doubt and the clinging and the feeling stuck, that's one of the things that attracts me to it. It's part of why I have a hard time with the idea of digital painting; the potential for failure is essential.
The current painting in progress is stuck in that clingy, fearful, pre-hate phase. There are a few real sweet spots, glimmers of what it could become, but it's absolutely not there yet. I have no choice but to push it through the hate phase. If I've learned anything about my process, it's that momentum is a big help. So, the plan for tonight is to rush headlong into ugly, to obscure and destroy, drip and splatter -- and to have faith that the painting and I will come out the other side stronger for our trials -- until I have no other choice but to fix the mess I've made.
Sweet spot. In memoriam.