I spend a lot of time oil painting in my garage, especially in summer when the concrete block construction doesn’t turn my feet into icicles after a few hours of exposure. It’s a big, dusty, spider-infested garage. A possum lived there for a while, and I recently found the corpse of a squirrel tucked away behind sheets of drywall (the possum at least had the decency to go die elsewhere). My cats can crawl around in there for hours at a time. It’s a regular zoo.
I have been painting on a semi-routine basis since winter of 1997, the year my apartment complex burned to a cinder and I decided on the New Hobby as Therapy® approach to feeling better about it. When I am in the zone, I can be rather prolific. I would say that, on average, I have produced an average of 35 paintings per year, approximately 10 of which are “finished quality” (whatever that is), 10 that I want to finish but never do, and 15 of which are complete and utter trash. That means I generate about 25 unfinished paintings per year. Some of these I paint over, but the vast majority end up in stacks. These stacks have been waiting for some burst of inspiration, some eruption of determination, some sudden clarity of artistic version to come. Unfortunately, there has been some sort of karmic blockage which has prevented the arrival of this watershed moment for the last decade.
As a result, my garage has gradually become an artistic purgatory. It’s where the bad paintings go to writhe in eternal flames. So, every time I go to paint, I do so surrounded by the corpses of my artistic failings. Plus, my garage is strewn with debri — stuff my landlord left there, stuff we’ve left there, stuff our friend Matt Holtmeier left there, stuff Cathy’s daughter LaRae left there after her last move. It is a minefield of dusty cardboard and unfinished projects. Talk about bad energy!
So, finally, I decide that enough is enough.
Over the last two weeks, I have systematically shuffled, grouped, and restacked. Floor began to appear. Finally, all of the storage materials have been grouped by owner and type, consolidated against the walls. It feels good. The last thing I approached was this mammoth stack of old art crap. The first hour was difficult — painful, even. I could not tell which items could be salvaged and which were unredeemable. It was painful to throw anything away. If it weren’t for Cathy, my Kitty, I would not have persisted.
Then the moment of clarity came — not artistic clarity, perhaps; it was as if I had taken a spiritual antibiotic. Suddenly I felt as though I was unshackling myself. I realized that I did not owe anything to a single one of these unfinished creations, much less the bulky mass of them. Each one, carried out and deposited in the garbage, was one less impediment to pursuing new things. By the time I was done I felt emptied of both energy and fear.
Now my garage is like a blank canvas: empty of fear, hoping for a vivid future. I can barely wait to spend some quality time in it soon.