Surviving the bouts of artistic angst

I am working my way through the new Susan Allison mural, do stop by and have a look.

These days, I’m in the throes of angst and uncertainty. Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration I suppose. What I’m doing is working my way through the new Susan Allison mural. The old one is such a target for closet creatives that I figured I would declare open warfare on these culturally deprived ones. I want to teach them at least to be original but since they are middle of the night types and I’m not, I’m skipping over that step and proceeding to unnamed high tech solutions for the newer, hopefully improved version. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

Back to angst. Here’s how it goes: I get this tremendously “brilliant” idea. I share it with people and of course they smile and offer a bit of encouragement. Being in a moderately manic phase I read that as the go-ahead and I’m off! I do the timeline thing which, by the way, usually gets lost very early on. Then I put in my proposal to the appropriate agency.

Soon the approval comes and I begin shopping for materials. I love that part. My version of finding gold would be to find a huge box of Golden Heavy Body Acrylics of all the colours of the rainbow, no pun intended. After a futile local search for some rare board which is necessary for my top secret anti-vandalism strategy, I make a run into the Big City to shop. And now, I am ready to begin.

One of the interesting aspects of mural painting is that most often, it is done in a public place. My choice is to do the work in the lobby at Riverside Centre and so we set up with a sturdy arrangement in one corner of the open area.

Gulp. Wow, I never realized how big eight feet by six feet really is. No matter. I find a suitable ladder, set out my equipment and supplies and begin to block in my preliminary sketch.

I have had much experience over the years making art in public so I’m not rattled any more by spectators. They are not the source of my angst because I’ve learned that goodwill is intended no matter what the comments are. I’m left-handed and also quite awkward but have unorthodox coping skills. This creates great discomfort in helpful men so I am gentle.

The blocking in goes well and soon I am applying paint with a four inch house painting brush. The work begins to take on a life of its own and spectators make encouraging noises. I begin to get squirmy. I have a barely controlled urge to shout, “Of course it looks good! It’s big!” (I once heard an art professor mutter under his breath at an opening, “If you can’t paint, make it big. If it still doesn’t work, make it red.”) Once the preliminary sketch is laid in, I step back. I want to tell everyone that the painting is done because I just know what will happen next. I’ll tighten up and then it’s down hill all the way from here. I try to remember those breathing exercises I learned during prenatal education. As I began to practice them, I noticed folks stepping out of the lobby with alarmed looks on their faces.

After an extended break I return and begin doing details of Mrs. Allison’s strong face.

She calms me down somehow (she addresses the viewer directly) and I spend many hours working out those minute details of distance between the eyes, compound curves and just-so lip contours. How could I not do justice to a woman who had fourteen children, survived a house fire, a devastating flood and lived to well into her nineties?

I’m not finished yet, but I have survived at least one bout of angst and although I still have uncertainty, I’m still working at it. Of course, if you’re up at Riverside Centre, do stop by and have a look. I promise not to fall apart in front of you.

 

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