Have you ever had a long list of things that have to be done but all you wanted to do is wrap up in a blanket in front of the fireplace and binge-watch cooking shows, HGTV or Friends re-runs? That seems to be where I am today. As you can see, it’s Friday, not Thursday and I am just sitting down to re-write the post that I started but abandoned yesterday. I won’t list everything I need to do but my to-do list is long and includes things like the big T (tax preparation) and cleaning and organizing the total train wreck that is my house after taking down a recent art exhibit. My goal is to try to re-create a peaceful space where at least one or two flat surfaces are not covered with paper, art, or laundry. I’m not there yet.
So the topic I chose for today is Energy.
What is it? How does it affect my daily life? Why do I have days like this and other days (like this past Wednesday) when I can go without stopping for 15 hours straight? Do I have a condition like bi-polar disorder or ADHD? I don’t think so. It’s just the normal ebb and flow of the energy that makes up the totality of my life. Maybe my 15 hour Wednesday is just catching up with my Friday. Anyway, my week has been interesting.
I have been working on several paintings at once, but have not been entirely happy with any of them. A couple of years ago, I was privileged and honored to have been invited to join to a critique group of some very talented artists. I went to one of our monthly dinner and critique meetings last night with 4 paintings and came home with some great ideas for making my paintings better- but they require work. Just today, my brain is too busy and my body too tired to even think about it and I feel the stress of getting things done - right now and everything-all-at-once!
This all relates to the fact that there are different kinds of energy. The energy you expend to do something you love (painting) seems to be much less than the energy it takes to do something you hate (taxes). When my husband died almost four years ago, one of the most comforting thoughts someone shared with me was this Einstein quote: “Energy cannot be created or destroyed. It can only be changed from one form to another.” I feel my husband’s energy around me every day. I have pondered this and how the concept of energy taking different forms applies to how we all get through life. If you have been through the devastating loss of a spouse or family member, you know that finding the energy to do anything is extremely challenging and at first, impossible. You just sit and stare and cry. Eventually you find the physical energy to start moving again to do things that must be done. Later, you begin to find the mental and emotional energy to move ahead with a new life on your own. It’s interesting how the juxtaposition of the emotional, physical and psychological forms of energy must all work together to make a full life.
I loved my art class this week and particularly enjoyed a discussion about expectations and energy around painting. As we were discussing the concerns about whether someone is “good enough” whether we are “following the rules and doing it right,” or whether the “right people” will like your paintings, our instructor said: “Remember, paint is made of atoms. Only 5% of that is matter. The rest is energy.” I was curious about this and I had to look up and read more about physics to come to an understanding about what he was really saying. According to Einstein, the formula E=MC(2)(Wix won't let me show exponents, apparently) means that matter is basically energy in another form. It “showed that a very small amount of mass may be converted into a very large amount of energy…” (Albert Einstein)
So how does this relate to painting?
I can put paint on a paint-by-number canvas with a stamped-on drawing. If I follow the guidelines, it might even look like the picture on the cover. It’s paint and canvas but how much passion and energy is in that painting?
If I see a subject that moves me and makes me want to express those moving feelings through art, the paint becomes a vehicle but not the end result for that expression. I have found that the best paintings I have ever done have been done quickly, with bold strokes using larger brushes and lots of paint. The ones that have bothered me the most are ones that I did from a photograph because I thought it’s what might sell in a show or because I had identified the scene as one that I thought would make a good painting. Often, those don’t turn out the way I had hoped they would. That’s when it’s time to go back and ask myself the four questions I referred to in a previous post. What do I want to paint? Why do I want to paint it? How will I paint it, and most relevant to this post, Who is painting this painting? Am I trying to meet someone else’s expectations, painting what I am “supposed” to paint, or am I truly painting to express the feelings that prompted me to paint the subject in the first place. When I really paint what I feel, I experience the sense of being in “flow”. Fully present, full of energy, and undeterred by fatigue, hunger, or distractions.
I am still evolving in my art life. When I am painting, I feel full of energy- physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional energy. I strive for this feeling every time I go into my studio. It’s what gets me to turn off the tv and pick up my paint brush.
Happy Valentine’s Day. See you next week.
Here are some images of my favorite paintings that expressed those feelings. I continue to work to find that place.