Accumulating new habits

October 17, 2017 by Jess

written by the 2017-2018 Artist-in-Residence, Elizabeth King.

I am a superstitious painter. In each new studio, I must act out certain rituals to ensure productivity. There is a specific flat white that I am accustomed to seeing behind my paintings. There is specific warm gray that I need below me-even though I know it will almost instantly be covered with splatters of other colors. There is a specific pattern of warm and cool light bulbs that I prefer arranged on the wall behind me. I indulge in these particularities because they can be done without much mental focus. It earns me about two weeks to let my mind wander in the new environment.

Preparing the surfaces I will paint on is usually another auto piloted task. This year, however, I am trying to be more sensitive with the shapes and textures my paintings inhabit. I prepared fifteen canvases to get me started. Each rectangle owns an individualized dimension. The largest canvas is four feet high. I do not want to be too dependent on the allure a large painting innately possesses. I want the content of each narrative to dictate the size. I am thinking similarly about texture. I feel I have streamlined the dehydrated, hazy quality of paint that has been scrubbed into raw canvas. Smooth, dry, sandy, glossy, dusty-these are words I want to mix into my vocabulary.  

These are two shifts do not sound drastic, but they require training to become routine. I am feeling incredibly challenged by the seemingly small problems I have made for myself. The struggle confirms that I pinpointed an interesting spot to dwell. With time and focus, I know I can turn this new practice to habit and I am excited to see what happens as a result.

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