That’s the title of my favorite Dr. Suess book. It’s the last one he created before he died. I remember rushing to the bookstore on the day it was released. I read it right there on the floor in the isle of the Walden’s near my house – and back then – I even felt guilty to be going to a “chain” bookstore to get it, but Dutton’s wouldn’t have it for another week.
I remember crying on the floor, sitting cross-legged with the book in my lap upon reading the last page.
Later I bought one of the special editions of the book that’s bound in linen with a matching slipcase. I hardly had the money to do that at 22.
The reason I revere it so highly is because it is not just some children’s book, like Green Eggs and Ham – my previous favorite. That was the book I made my babysitter read to me every single night (that I was being babysat that is) before I went to sleep. I could hear it again and again, never getting tired of it. I’d pretend I had never heard it before. I knew how to do that sort of thing when I was six.
Oh the Places You’ll Go is profound, and I wished that Theodore would have written it when he was younger, but the wisdom of the book came when it came. Unfortunately, I was already grown up when it came out. If I had been able to read it at six years old over and over again – instead of Green Eggs and Ham – I would be a different person today. That I know.
But luckily, I was still young enough for this book to have a great impact on my life. I still read it from time to time to remind me how to navigate life in the simplest terms. It will help you do that. No kidding!
I bring all this up because I should have broken this book out about a week ago when I was having the dilemma with my alef painting. You don’t even wanna know what I went through.
I know a lot of people think that painting and making art should be all about joy and happiness. I mean, why would you contribute to an endeavor that caused you such turmoil and grief at times?
Ha! I say.
Those people don’t know artists. Working artists anyway.
I have fantasies about retiring one day and becoming a hobby artist, which is pretty funny. I don’t think it can be done. I don’t think it’s in my blood — painting leisurely. I probably thrive on the struggle. Maybe because I always come out the other end of it a little more learned. A little more evolved. At least I am in my own mind. But isn’t that all that counts?
I haven’t written about my progress on this painting for a while because I got myself into such a muck that I didn’t want to resurface until I could find my way out of it on my own.
I had to make hard decisions in the midst of some deafening insecurities, which actually happens with me quite often. Surprise surprise! An artist with plaguing self-doubt. Have you ever known one of those before? Or do you only know the overly self-confident kind? News flash — those guys are even more insecure. Not that you couldn’t have guessed. You guys are smart enough people. All three of my readers are very intelligent, so I don’t need to explain this stuff.
Admitting, publicly, that you are riddled with self-doubt is probably not the best PR, but I’ve been able to get by with sharing my vulnerabilities so far without getting too much flack.
Having eyes on me could have contributed to the stress of knowing where to go next with this painting. By that I mean exposing myself and every step of this work on the blog. I wouldn’t doubt it, but that was why I had to make a disappearance for a week, so you understand.
Last I left off, as far as you knew, we were here:
At this point, I was still liking it. Still excited, and was not stressed out in any way. However, it was not finished. This was not the point where I would ever think to walk away just because I liked it. Painting is not that simple. Especially painting something abstract.
I spend far more many hours looking than I do painting. It’s all about looking, and thinking, deciding, and more looking.
You’ve probably heard this before, and it’s going to sound like some “art speaky” cliche, but it’s really the painting that dictates where it wants to go.
You can have all kinda intentions about where YOU want it to go, and that’s just too damn bad. You’ll just have to throw all of your dreams for your painting out the window because that’s when this happens:
That’s when I went crazy.
I know, not much of a difference, right? But to me, this was all wrong. I didn’t even want to show it on the blog until I figured out what I wanted to do about it.
All I could really do is look. Look and think and sort of ask it what it wanted. You have to let go of your control. I was trying to control it and look what happened: it started to look controlled.
Maybe you don’t see that, but I sure did. It looked controlled, and tidy, and anal, and deliberate and suddenly what was originally free became something I wanted to bury in the dirt. Just in these slight changes.
So I took a few days off and just glanced at it every so often. (That means I obsessively looked at it every half hour.)
Then I took one real day off from it.
The next day I finished it. Just like that.
First it was hard, and then it was easy. That’s the way it goes.
So after a month, and after all this time, all this fussing, all these paths and talk of significance, this painting is finally completed!
It’s called Firmament.