Friday, April 17, 2009


Robert Genn's newsletter broaches the subject of dissatisfaction and includes a quote from Thomas Merton;

"Paradoxically, I have found peace because I have always been dissatisfied. My moments of depression and despair turn out to be renewals, new beginnings. If I were to settle down and be satisfied with the surface of life, with its divisions and cliches, it would be time to call in the undertaker. This dissatisfaction which sometimes used to worry me has helped me to move freely and even gaily with the stream of life."

Normally I would claim to happily embrace dissatisfaction as a part of a creatively engaged life. It does propel new investigations and new discoveries; it is part and parcel of the cyclic creative process.

But I've been trying to work out some new ideas on paper using watercolors -- using them to flesh out and develop ideas rather than yards and yards of cloth -- and working with them feels awkward and uncertain. When I look at them after I'm done, I'm totally dissatisfied with the results.

A realization suddenly dawns that I hate to confess. I have no idea what I'm doing!

I, who profess to explore and experiment and applaud artistic practice for the sake of learning, want to pick up my brushes and apply watercolors and inks to paper with the same confidence and skill that I apply paints and dyes. Immediately. Effortlessly.

It's akin to thinking that because I speak English fluently that I should easily and effortlessly be able to speak German.

So,what to do? Give up and stick them away in a drawer? Take classes to learn the basics? Find some good books on the subject? Just keep chipping away, practicing them until the unfamiliar becomes more familiar?

Good suggestions all;I have a variety of options to help me feel more comfortable.

The real issue I'm facing is my attitude. I need to let go of how these practice pieces turn out and just be willing to learn from them. Already I like the way I've been able to partially erase some of the acrylic ink letter forms on the gesso coated paper.

Already I like that I can re-wet a surface and remove color. It's worth sticking with this!

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