A New Life


Cattails, 6 x 6″ monoprint

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind is part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter into another.”

– Anatole France

I’ve been contemplating change a lot lately. Perhaps it’s the time of year to think about what and how you would like to change going forward. I definitely feel like I need to make some fundamental changes in my artwork. I’ve been struggling to figure out how to accomplish this.

So I’ve been thinking about what is holding me back. Is it a lack of technique? Not having thought enough about my artistic vision? Anxiety about failure? Unsure what steps to take? All of the above?

Someone far wiser than me (who I happen to live with) suggested that change only occurs when we become willing to give up what we’ve learned to do. It’s so easy to fall back on these tried and true methods, even if they are not serving your purpose as well as you’d like. At least you’ve made some progress with them, done something you like at least a bit. When you do something entirely new, you may have to go through that rough period where nothing at all satisfies. Then it’s soooo tempting to fall back in with your old habits and methods. Must be like trying to give up smoking…

Obviously what you’ve learned will remain with you and perhaps still make an appearance now and again, but to undergo true transformation, you have to be willing to die to one life in order to enter into another. Yes,  a bit of melancholy there, but also lots of excitement!

What changes are in store for you this year?

11 responses to “A New Life

  1. Change is definitely only for the lion-hearted. Some of us, and I know you’re one, couldn’t stay the same for long in our art without experiencing overwhelming restlessness or disatisfaction (the death of the old way you spoke of). But as soon as we learn something new, we’re off and running, and forget how uncomfortable or outright depressing it was to give up the old way. Good thing, huh?

  2. Reading your post, the question that comes to me is, why do you feel anything is holding you back?

    Maybe there isn’t anything. It could be that it’s only the idea there is something. And that creates a shadow. But in reality you are in the clear!

  3. Susan,

    I’m definitely looking forward to that “off and running” stage – I know it’s coming!


    The experience of feeling “held back” comes from having had the intention to change and being unable to manifest the change I’ve envisioned.

    As an artist, sometimes the barrier is, in fact, just not having the skill or technique to pull off what you want to do. Other times, the barrier is more subtle, more internal. Sometimes it’s hard to know which it is. You may be focusing all your attention in an area that isn’t really the issue at all.

  4. Beautiful painting, Bob… i can see there on the right the window to your World of Changes…
    I haven’t been much around these last weeks, but my thoughts are always with you and Susan, I think you know that. Let me now wish you a wonderful year 2009, in which I hope we all will have great interaction and mutual inspiration and motivation. I think this this is the best gift we can give each other.

    Do you know what i do when I start getting bored or unsatisfied with what i do? I simply paint something totally different, totally casual, above all in a totally different technique, different paper, whatever, just so that I cannot be tempted to go the usual way because the tools don’t allow it.

    I think I might have suddenly realised why i never make plans before I start painting: i am sure I would not have the appropriate technique or skill to achieve it in a satisfactory way!!! I suppose it is why I am always happy with my painting process… expecting nothing… I don’t believe this is an act of courage, on the contrary. But I don’t care courage, I just want to enjoy painting!

  5. Miki

    I always so much appreciate it when you share your own experience with us here in relation to the posting. It’s good to understand how others deal with the same issues.

    I can truly appreciate your comment about planning potentially revealing the lack of necessary technique. Being an impatient type, I must admit I’ve probably failed to develop technique as much as I should and this is revealed when I have a specific objective in mind.

  6. “Someone far wiser than me (who I happen to live with)” – I can totally identify with that, Bob! 🙂

    I truly believe that in my case, the fact that I didn’t learn ANY technique or theory in music or the playing of an instrument has informed my own particular style completely. Whether that is to its good or its detriment I shall leave for others to judge, but I know that when I play a lead guitar part, or a piano part, my fingers will not adopt set patterns that are drilled into students. They will not follow or conform to known scales. I think it gives me an ability to (and I hate this phrase, but it seems apt) “think outside the box”. Of course, this same lack of tuition probably means I don’t know what the heck I’m talking about!

  7. Bob I have enjoyed tremendously the reading of your posts and blog. I can relate to your last post so much as it seems I am constantly going through that dilema.

    Thank you for comment on my blog, expecially because this has brought me to your’s, which I know I will visit and enjoy very much. Your work is fantastic!

  8. Kev

    Your sense of humor and self-deprecation is always refreshing. All the more so since it accompanies such obvious artistic talents! Your comments make me think of the great jazz musicians who can’t even read music. Just shows we can connect to art in so many unique ways and the beauty can still shine through.


    Thanks for your visit and wonderful words! I’m excited when I come across another artist whose work inspires me as your does. Looking forward to our exchanges!

  9. Leslie from “textures shapes and color” wrote about your most recent post as well written on the subject of change! I agree. I have written my intentions of new work and prepared my materials…daunting to begin new…leaving behind what I know works so I might experience a new way of expressing. Your quote talked of letting the one part die so as to bring the new way into life….no wonder I’ve been feeling uneasy! I have had a few false starts, finding myself reverting back to old ways but this post has helped me to move forward and keep at it…how else to grow, change and work with the magic of new! Thank you for such an open post.

  10. Blue Sky Dreaming

    It sounds as if you know well that artistic progress is not a linear path. As artists it seems we’re always voluntarily putting ourselves into a position of discomfort. I wonder how many other groups can say the same?

    But from this does emerge something new that allows us to experience new dimensions of ourselves. And I wonder how many other groups can say that as well?

  11. I really like your monoprints and your strong sense of design and composition. It’s so interesting reading about your thoughts about change and what might be holding you back from the next steps, changes, growth.

    From my perspective, seeing the progress of your work over several years, I see huge changes, as you’ve moved from stunning yet realistic photography to pastels, painting, and now monoprints (and I’m probably missing steps in between). Each step became looser, more impressionistic, more abstract.

    The haiku you posted on Susan’s blog offers a good analogy; the photos were more like short stories, the paintings sonnets, and now the monoprints are more like haiku.

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