Again, I feel as though I’ve used everything up. Another bird and teacup?? An animal on a tenuous perch?? I’ve squeezed these ideas dry. So, I look to others and how they find subjects or at least a starting point. Peter Doig for example, he often starts with a photograph either taken by himself or found. It’s only a starting point but it seems to get him into the painting. Many artists do this - Cecily Brown is another, her finished painting bear virtually no resemblance to the starting figurative imagery and yet it seems she needs to have that foundation to get going and ground the thing. Why then am I so determined to come up with ideas and create from thin air? Is that really realistic? Is it necessary or helpful? I’m starting to think not.
Have I been asking the wrong question all these years? Maybe the question isn’t ‘what shouldI paint’ but rather, how shall I go about painting whatever I choose to paint. My journals are littered with decades of asking this question - what is the subject, where is the subject. etc. Usually, the question was answered as I looked out the door or took a walk in my neighborhood. No mythic scenes, no epic depictions, usually in the end, just things I know sitting around outside. I’d find a topic and exhaust it.
So, instead of what to paint it feels that I should and can paint everything. A face, a tower, a fish, a boat, the stars, a tall tree, etc., etc., etc. What ties these all together is far broader than a unified and predictable subject but rather, my point of view. This point of view is grounded in Love. Empathy. That sweet, slightly painful tenderness and vulnerability I feel as I walk in this world. If I can be as quiet and truthful about this as I’m working, inevitably the painting will be infused with those attributes and THAT is what I’m painting. The subject is irrelevant.
I know that if I can clarify my thinking - answering what my essential point of view is regarding my life, how I experience it and what I believe to be true, then the foundation upon which to build would begin to be clear. I’ve done this before, probably less consciously and those foundations served me. But, like a home, or a seed pod, a shirt or snake skin, I seem to have outgrown the previous conditions and need to renew this process again.