I spent an hour last week stripping the paint from a very heavily-worked canvas: a painting which had been in production for so long that I couldn’t really remember starting it. As I worked my way back through the layers, I began to recognise aspects of a previously ‘finished’ painting that I had obviously decided wasn’t actually finished at all.
This time around, I think the painting really is complete, but it made me realise that there is no such thing as a ‘failed’ painting, and neither is there an insignificant mark; every drop, drip and splash is there at the end, one way or another.
The problem, though, with producing artworks which sometimes take months or even years to actually finish, is that it becomes more and more difficult to let them go. By the time they reach a stage where I’m fixing them into a frame or hanging them on a gallery wall, I have sweated and deliberated to such an extent that it feels like we’re related. A newly finished painting will be carried from room to room as I go about my day: savoured, enjoyed and deliberated over some more, before I have to (hopefully) move on to the next piece.
This sense of attachment means that I have mixed feelings when it comes to selling my work. Now, more than ever, selling them is vital and I’m delighted that people admire my pictures enough to pay for them; but the completist in me has other ideas and I never truly enjoy seeing them leave the nest.
Of course, I don’t produce artwork in order to be able to sell it. To put it simply, I do what I do in the hope that I will make a painting that works; when that happens, it becomes very hard to hand them over. Thankfully, one of the benefits of selling directly to the people who like my work, is that they never just disappear into the ether. Friends are collectors and collectors have often become friends, so the pictures never seem like they’re all that far away.
Although it is difficult sometimes, I hope that the feeling never diminishes. They should feel precious to me, and important.
I think it means that I’m doing something right.