Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Four Stages

Today I was reading through one of the blogs I greatly enjoy (and which is often relevant to both my art and my life) and this post really spoke to me. [The blog is that of Luann Udell, who also happens to be a fabulous artist that really gets down to the roots of what art is and why it's so important. Because of that, her work really speaks to me both about human history and about human present and future.]

Luann's post discusses a concept she learned from her Kickboxing instructor. It details four stages of learning a new skill :

Inception - Unconcious Incompetence
Deception - Concious Incompetence
Transformation - Concious Competence
Identity - Unconcious Competence

I had never realized it until now but I go through these four stages in each painting I create. In fact, I go through these four stages in not only all of the new skills I learn, but also in the period of a week or a month or whatever cycle I happen to be on at the time. This really shows up everywhere and I've never even thought about it before.

Every painting cycles through these stages, a pattern which I've only recently begun to recognize.

I start out at inception with just laying the foundation and setting the mood of the painting. I have no expectations here and I certainly don't plan on any of these brush strokes actually being a part of the finished painting. It's never pretty and I don't worry about that.

Then I begin building up the painting and laying out where I want things to be and roughly what color they are going to be. The background becomes more detailed and then I ram into a brick wall - every single time - I step back, look at the painting, and I realize that I absolutely hate it. I've hit Deception and everything feels wrong. It's not going at all like I thought it would, I feel like I've made horrible mistakes in the foundation of my painting that I'll "never" be able to fix, and so on. Thankfully over the years I've come to realize that this is a phase that I go through with every single painting and that I have to keep going or that painting will be set aside forever. If I need to I'll sit it aside for a day, a week, or however long it takes, but I constantly remind myself that if I put more work into the painting it will become amazing. I had created a necklace over a year ago that I was very displeased with. Just a few weeks ago I picked it back up and realized it would make an amazing cuff bracelet - and look much better that way.

Whenever I finally start working on the painting again, Transformation happens because I sit down specifically to make it better, recapture the raw beauty that was there in inception but in a more refined and directed manner. I do just that, start to feel a lot better about the painting and work at it a bit madly trying to get it all down in paint.

Finally I hit Identity - this painting is not done yet, but it is what it is going to be already. All that is left to do is add finishing touches, highlights and details. I don't have to majorly rework any of the elements of the painting or fix a whole lot. I'm just polishing it and that requires nothing more than confident brush strokes and attention to detail. This is the most relaxed part of the painting next to Inception - I've climbed the mountain and now I'm just setting up camp.

It's amazing what you don't know about yourself until someone points out the obvious. Then, and only then, can you begin to truely know yourself.

That's right- it takes close interaction with others to discover who YOU really are.
Solitude is also necessary. How much of each (and anything else) depends on you.

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