Memory, Fear, and Art

Years ago when I lived in Manchester, MA I drove past a field on my way to and from work that was home to a Scottish Highland bull.  In the early morning fog, his vague shadowy form looked like a Medieval fantasy, and in the late afternoon sun, he glowed golden like a god.  He was beautiful and majestic and I loved him.  I always wanted to stop and take photos but never did, which I regret to this day.  He lives only in my memory now.  When I found out about a "bull" themed show in Durham, NC (also known as Bull City), I knew it was the perfect opportunity to bring him back to life.  

I began the painting like any other - I found some reference material, textured the canvas, and decided on my color scheme.  I anticipated painting him in warm cadmium colors, so I toned the background with a cool alizarin crimson.  Then I blocked in his basic shape with a few details and highlights of color.  At this point, it was late in the day and he was at a good stopping point, so I set down my brushes.  Then I looked at the painting again.  I loved it!  That was the bull in my memory, heavy and solid, yet vague with a slight glow.  But that's not a finished painting, is it?  Could I call that finished?  What would other people think?  I needed to walk away and come back with fresh eyes in the morning.

The next morning I was still in love with the painting.  I wanted to indicate his legs a bit more and add a little definition in a couple of spots but otherwise, he was what I had envisioned.  Then I hesitated.  My inner critic saw the opening and jumped right in. "You can't call that finished.  That's unacceptable!   People will either think that you don't know how to paint or that you're arrogant for putting something like that out there."  I felt my chest tighten up.  Well... maybe I'll start making those changes I was already planning....  But now my confidence was shaken.

"He who hesitates is lost."

- attributed to Joseph Addison

One change led to another change which led to another until a few hours later, there was no going back.  The painting was in what I call the "awkward adolescent phase".   After that, it took a few more days to finish.  I'm happy with the way it came out and I've received a lot of compliments, but it's bittersweet.  I'm disappointed that instead of trusting my muse and taking a risk, I let my fear of other people's expectations lead the way.  It's a painting of a bull and I love it, but it's not "my" bull - the one in my memory.  

 If my art has any power, it is the power of the love and truth I put into it.  If I want to make powerful art, I need to love and trust myself. 

Please share your thoughts and comments below.

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  • What a beautiful story from your heart, Lisa! This makes the painting come alive. Great message for the world. Be authentic and transparent in all you do and you will attract others that are like you and will love you through your authentic impressions on canvas. You are a very gifted lecturer and will soon have studios across America wanting you to share the story of your paintings. You are learning the value of facing your worst fears as you stretch outside your comfort zone. The magic occurs for everyone when they stretch and do things outside their comfort zones. Become a master of becoming comfortable being uncomfortable! :-)

    Glynn Hodges
  • I think both paintings are beautiful. There was something different about the first painting it had a definite presences/spirit of the bull you were describing.
    I am amazed to see the changes in your work from when you were in MA and now. Detail and creativity are great!!
    You do very well with the video too. Keep doing them very interesting!

  • Hi Lisa, it was great meeting you Sunday. Thank you. I love both paintings, the colors are fantastic. The first one is very ethereal. Thanks for sharing.

    Laura McManus
  • Oh Lisa- hi! 🙋🏻‍♀️
    I love both of your beautiful bulls! There is a magnificence to each of them. I think the outcome was just as it should be.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. It makes your art a reflection of who you are- very relatable…and relevant!

  • Love the video. It is like you are talking directly to me.
    Your painting is magnificent. It is interesting that we doubt ourselves and look toward meeting what others might expect.
    He is indeed handsome, so happy your artwork is on the move in the Carolinas.

    Mary Jo Barbaretta

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