Thursday, March 4

Finding Your Next Motif

Today’s Image
Eureka! California State Seal

Getting started on today’s blog took me longer than usual, not sure why, but suppose it has to do with the same subject I’m blogging about; that is, finding your next motif.

As I wind down on a current painting, knowing that it’s almost complete (see my last blog on Finishing a Painting), somewhere in the back of my mind, I start to worry.

Now, I don’t mean worry in the sense of impending doom or anything quite so dramatic, but rather a nagging uneasiness. As I near completion on a painting, I have a sense of accomplishment and, I hope, of a job well done. It’s that brief period of time when I can bask, as it were, in the sunshine of my glorious work.

But, back there in my mind, I know I will soon have to start my next “assignment.”

In creating art, any pressure you feel is probably self-imposed. I think that’s good; anyway, you’re in control (mostly). We all hope it drives us to bigger and better outcomes--in theory.

In practice, however, it sometimes makes me jumpy and irritable. I hear my inner voice saying to me with increasing audible volume, “What’s next-- now what are you going to paint?”

Why do I worry? I don’t run my studio or paintings like a business. No one is going to come over and demand that I shorten the schedule, force me to pay up or else, or drive me out of “business.”

The pressure and worry come from feeling (or being?) compelled to start looking for my next motif even before I finish my current one.

I'm pretty sure it comes from years of working on projects driven by deadlines. Old habits die hard.

I repeat, I don’t run my studio like a business. I don’t have a 1-, 3-, or 5-year art plan. I don’t have a spreadsheet that tracks my current painting and/or future motifs from week to week or quarterly. There’s no project-scheduling software that sends me emails or pop-ups when it’s time to start looking for my next motif.

Maybe there should be. It would probably keep me from worrying when I’m in between paintings.

No, on second thought, that would not be good. The tension I feel when I’m between paintings actually helps me to find my next motif. My worry and virtual hand-wringing force me to be single-minded in my pursuit.

I’m challenged to look around both close by and afar to find my next great motif.

Until finally as Archimedes, the ancient Greek scholar, proclaimed, “Eureka, I have found it!”

Monet would be proud.


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