The Struggle of Painting

Struggle is a necessary part of being a painter.  Though I’ve always known this, it’s often forgotten.  I’m not talking about struggle in the tormented, anguished loner sense, but in the technical sense.  We can always be better painters.  There’s always an achievement that is elusive, a gap between what our mind sees and what our hand does.


The sooner we can accept this struggle–or even embrace it–the more likely we will continue painting.  And it’s not all about technique.  After all, we’re artists and not merely craftsmen.  Nevertheless, there is a vision our mind strives to project, and much of the time our technique feels inadequate.  This is one of the more compelling reasons to spend hours in the studio, so a technique can be developed that is sufficient for our vision.


We have to be comfortable with this struggle.  There are happy accidents, too–times when we surprise ourselves with a nearly effortless series of great brushstrokes.  These happy accidents may help us along in our journey or make the burden of expression lighter, but if one is to continue painting, struggle will be a constant reality.

One comment on “The Struggle of Painting

  1. My manager at Brown Bookstore in PVD back in the day (who was also a painter) used to say “the hand insults the brain” and I think what you are referring to is what he was talking about. Probably the most important thing I learned during my MFA program was to actually do the problem areas over and over and over until the vision in my mind and the one on the panel matched. I learned to let each painting dictate the time it needed, if it was 40 hours or 5. This was the hardest thing to discipline myself to do because I’d been in the habit of always leaving my paintings “unfinished.”What would happen is for months and months a new-ish painting would be hanging on my wall and I’d be staring at it saying to myself “that part really bugs me” or “wow that value is way off!” Learning to do this, to work on the painting until it was actually FINISHED…and stop only when my eyes were quiet and at peace with what I saw totally changed my painting experience. It began to involve much more sitting and staring then making errors on the work itself and struggling to correct them. Now every time before I begin painting I sit, look, and decide to work on one specific area (primarily) until its done and then I move on. The process became much more deliberate than haphazard like it used to be for me in undergrad.

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