Chris Sutcliff

Artist Man I am
6th Apr 2010



Dorothy Parker (attributed)

1893 – 1967.

Progress has been frustratingly sluggish of late. I procrastinate. I laze. I ponder. My absence is tangible.

It is a difficult truth to grasp that your passions are a double edged blade. Or at least they CAN be when you mismanage them. They are that which you most love and that which you most hate, and sometimes I hate to have to paint. I find these non-active periods anxious and disorienting and they have been known to last for months at a time. Is there a cure? Perhaps. Recently I have glimpsed a probable root cause of these deteriorations. Boredom.

I’ve bored myself with the work I’ve been doing. An overwhelming sense of ‘same old, same old.’ And it follows that if I’m bored with it then you probably are too. This was not my original intention. So let’s rewind.

A while ago I decided to paint a nude and a landscape. Two established disciplines that I have rarely done before and am in no such rush to do again. Actually, “decided” is a slightly misleading explanation of what I did – I felt I HAD to do them and so talked myself into believing it was a brilliant tactical manoeuvre. In reality it was a cretinous manoeuvre, with all the tactics of an exceptionally stupid worm. You see, all the art on my site is of a level of competence that I thought may bewilder some of the viewers. The notion struck me that it may be hard for people to work out if I was any good or just a scribbler of no consequence. My ego didn’t sleep for a week. It was a question I wanted answering as well.

I thought it would be useful to have an anchor point, something for people to easily identify and therefore judge the workmanship appropriately. Hence the nude and the landscape. I remember it making more sense at the time. Maybe I’d even learn something.

Well, I did learn something. I learned that the difference between Joy and Disappointment is all in the picture you think other people will like. I learned to drag my feet when I’m painting things that don’t really interest me. I learned how important Haagen Dazs is for combating depression. Not that there’s anything wrong with the paintings. I actually quite like them and did manage to refine my techniques a little while working on them. But they took too long to do because I wasn’t doing anything new and inventive, I was copying set forms from a photographic source and I felt a bit like I’d gone backwards. I do not believe the world has benefited from one more painted nude and a tree and I had lost all curiosity in either.

Mostly I hated the entire process.

So here’s the lesson and the point of this entry. People are smarter than you think. Certainly they are smart enough to look at an image and work out whether or not they like it. You don’t need to paint a chair better than Van Gogh or a sunset better than Turner or a woman with facial feature displacement better than Picasso. Just be good at what you are doing and people will get it. So get on with something interesting. Something that’s never been seen before. Don’t waste your time pandering to taste. Also, for me, I now know I want to learn to work much more quickly in order to retain interest and enthusiasm and not get traumatised by perfecting the tiniest detail that no one really sees anyway.

This year I want to start selling prints through the site. This requires a very different way for me to work due to the constraints around scanning the finished image and also in terms of content as I am hoping to appeal to a slightly wider audience than I have to date. In short, my future work has to comprise of more arresting ideas and visual play with a higher quality of finish. I’ll probably muck both of those up.

Finally a note on time management.

I have previously harped on about tracking my painting hours in a spreadsheet and what a wonderful thing it all was. Sound anal? Well, that’s because it is, and I’m pleased to inform you that I’ve stopped doing it again. It was starting to feel like logging the time was more important than the quality of work and the experience of doing it. I hated that. It no doubt contributed to the feeling of overall boredom and soul-death. I don’t need a spreadsheet to tell me when I’ve had a good day or a bad day, I know it instinctively. I work now when the motivation is there to do it and I enjoy that a lot more than forcing the painting because I want to do more hours this month than I did in February. It turns your creativity into a job, and it’s not a job it’s my life. I can reliably advise you not to do anything so reductive as tracking every second you spend in your labours – it absolutely takes all the magic out of it. And whatever you do that has no magic is the only true waste of your time. I have an empty spreadsheet to prove it.

by Chris
Posted in Words

2 Responses to

  1. This is all very, very good news x

  2. Lynn says:

    Thinking like that is really imseprsive

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