It happens.  Writers refer to a block, painters may refer to the same phenomena as a slump.  It’s disconcerting because no subject matter seems compelling.  The first time I experienced it, was at least 10 years ago.  I drifted around the studio, leafed through reference photos…nothing!  I remarked about it to another painter who reassured me that it happens from time to time.  The thing to do is to keep painting.  It feels like an ominous dark cloud hanging over one’s easel, I’ve read recently that what’s really happening is an internal event, a mental and emotional reorganization, reordering, consolidation.  Maybe a search for a new approach, borne out of boredom for painting the same way, all the time.  Whatever the reason for the slump, it is, indeed, important to persist and keep on painting.  The last time I distinctly recall that happening was the summer of 2011.  Nothing was exciting.  I tried painting a scene from a French market, I tried painting a raven (laughable!).  I finally decided to turn toward painting a small still life.  I took two little teapots and set them up in the bright sun on the hot tub cover.  Set up my plein air gear and started to paint over an old yucky painting.  Much to my surprise, what resulted was a sensitive, meditative still life of the two teapots and the more I painted, the more detail I noticed.  One was reflecting on the surface of the other.  There were glints of sunlight on the glaze.  Even the shadows had color in them.  What resulted was a little 6”x8” painting I titled “Opposites Attract”.  The teapots looked as though they were communicating with one another.  To me, it looked like nothing I’d ever painted before and may, indeed, be my best little still life.  Anytime I think about putting it out for sale, a little voice whispers, “not yet!”.

This time, the slump hit in late October.  I didn’t pay much attention, after all, I had the hiker chick adventure coming up and that took a lot of focus away from painting.  Then upon returning, I learned my good friend, and painting buddy, Bob, was in the hospital dealing with leukemia.  That news put a pall over everything for me.  I spoke with Bob over the phone and he advised, “just keep painting”.  And I did.  I took a canvas I’d previously toned lavender and started to sketch out a scene from a little canyon up in Utah.  I lost myself in it.  The paint seemed to go on differently, the colors were not my typical palette.  I left the sky looking rather rough, even allowing some of the underpainting to show through.  You can see the finished piece on the Landscape page.  Perhaps you’ll see the difference, perhaps, not.  Persevering and painting through the slump is imperative, however, because you just never know when the next painting off the brush will be the one that results from the new order of your head and heart.

Take a look and tell me what you think!  © Dawn Sutherland  2017