Making a Painting with Gertrude and Earnest in the Rabbit Hole


comission (2010) artist: JParadisi

It takes a lot of time to be a genius, you have to sit around so much doing nothing, really nothing.


Gertrude Stein


  I don’t know much about genius, but I do know about making a painting, and it does take time sitting around doing nothing sometimes. I hate those times. I try to welcome them. I am a doer. I like waking up every morning with a list of things I want to do. Nursing is a good fit for me in that sense: there is always something to do when I’m at my nursing job. The studio is not like that. I go to the studio thinking I have several hours to make a painting. I set up my tabouret (a fancy French word for a little table or stool) with paints and medium and brushes and rags. When I can I leave a painting at a moment when I know what my next brush stroke will be. Then, when I return to the studio I have a starting point to re-enter the painting. It’s a little trick I play on myself.  Hemingway used this device, stopping at a point in a story where he knew what he would write next.  Knowing where to start does not guarantee a painting will progress, however. How many times have I spent hours applying paint to a canvas and stepped back to look at my work, disappointed? Sometimes, knowing what to do next leads to an artificial and contrived feel to the painting that I cannot stand. So out comes the palette knife and rag and I scrape and rub away all that paint and hard work, leaving me clueless how to get back into the painting.  At that point, I am Alice down the rabbit hole, forced to sit back and do nothing, really nothing. It’s painful and frustrating. The nurse in me wants to complete her tasks and check them off her list. The artist in me knows that’s not how a work of art gets made, and she laughs at the nurse’s compulsion.


1 Comment

  1. “There is no use trying.” said Alice; “one can’t believe impossible things.” “I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” -Lewis Carroll
    May you always imagine, dream, believe impossible things. Mary Haas


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