Stuck – Stuck – Loose!

Penelope, Petra, Pepe and Butterfly, the cat, trying to get Project-Ducks in a row.

After many months of this insufferable coronacrappiness pandemic I am starting to put my project ducks back into a somewhat orderly row.

Before all of this happened I was carrying on with my SOLO paintings while having my bathroom and studio redone.

There were contractors coming in and out, clouds of dust, mounds of rubble… and too many trips to the hardware store getting in the way of work but, at full speed, the renovation would soon be over, so it didn’t mattered much. The sooner all of it got done, the sooner I could get back to work full time in a beautiful new studio complete with an adjacent bathroom.

Then, overnight, we got locked in and the contractors got locked out.

This put a stop on the frantic disruptive renovation activities (peace at last) but left me with a badly done, unfinished bathroom, the inevitable chaos of piled up unused material, and a dilemma:

Should I carry on working and wait until things reopen? Should I clean up as best as I can and try to live a normal life in a half-home, half-ruin? Should I try to finish renovations myself?

Doubt brought my already hampered productivity to a halt.

Forget procrastination… procrastination is scratching your ass surfing the web for half an hour before guilt overrides laziness.

Doubt is the mental impossibility of carrying out ANY activity whatsoever due to the lack of clarity as to the intrinsic value of that which you are doing in the great scheme of things.

Doubt prevented me from “wasting” time trying to finish the renovation because “what if” the economy reopens soon? I wouldn’t be able to make a dent in it in what… two weeks? A month? Besides, I’d first have to learn how to do indoor plumbing. What if I put time into that and the minute I figure out how to install a drain, the world is full of happy healthy vaccinated contractors again?

On the other side of that coin, doubt made me overly conscious of the time I was putting into my work. Every brushstroke I applied to the painting lying on the dinner-table-temporarily-turned-into-a-work-table reminded me that there was half a home in need of order.

Again, it felt like I was “wasting” precious time when so much needed to be done, wasn’t being done, couldn’t get done. Along came doubt: maybe it would get to be done soon… maybe the best thing I could do was to continue working… in spite of the mess, in spite of the rubble, in spite of uncertainty. Life may get back to normal. Maybe even soon.

And then it didn’t. And again it didn’t. And it didn’t yet again.

Next time a virus makes the evolutionary jump to the best host in the Universe and we collectively decide to panic and cower in our homes… at least we could write off the whole year in advance, instead of getting our hopes up and crushed every two weeks.

“Dear citizen, we have a pandemic. Go home. Now stay. … No. Stay! … Yes. Staaaaaay. … Good boy! See you next year.”

These last months were the worst game of “are we there yet” I ever played. And we are still not there yet.

This reminds me of those awful summer vacations where Johnny gets tricked into visiting some random aunt he never met.

His parents tell him he is going to love that bitch the beach and suddenly he is stuck in a hot car for what seems to be an eternity only to get spewed out of the backseat smelling like the clam chowder he is about to have for dinner.

The next morning Johnny gets up full of hope that he will experience that awesome beach his parents used to lure him into the moving chowder pot. He runs into the kitchen in his socks and jammies where he finds mom, dad and aunt Dahlia looking gloomily out the window. “It’s raining”, his mom announces. Aunt Dahlia tries to make it better: “But we have all kinds of ways to have fun inside, right?” Dad rolls his eyes and Johnny knows he is screwed being duped.

This event is followed by an indefinite number of days spent on house arrest, playing aptly named bored board games with his cousins who are so sick of him they wish Johnny was never born. Little Molly, who is four, says as much right to his face. The feeling is mutual. The bonding goes on until the day comes when it is time to climb into the moving pot again. That is, of course, the day the sun comes out to provide Johnny’s family a nice steam on the ride home.

Like poor Johnny we are going from trapped to stuck to trapped again and there is nothing we can do.

That… is precisely the point.

Doubt is the feeling that arises when we are in a situation where fighting it is dumb, resisting it is futile and there is nothing much better awaiting us once everything gets back to normal.

For me it will be rubble and mess. For Johnny it will be getting trapped in school. Dad will be stuck at work while mom is stuck in traffic, and aunt Dahlia will go back to sweeping sand out of her carpet once the kids start playing on the beach again.

Life is… normal. In spite of it being insane. So is getting stressed out over how insane everything is right now. Life is never not stressful. It is never not crazy.

After I realized this, I decided to stop freaking out, take a nap step back and reorganize my ducks in a way they can better be dealt with, even if they continue to be stuck swimming in clam chowder.

Letting Go

“Letting Go” – Acrylics on Canvas – 60 x 90 cm – © Petra Elster 2020

Strenght
to bear
Life
unfolding…

…………………………………………..

Available as:

…………………………………………..

Leave a Comment

Negotiation Techniques for Young Artists

When an opportunity presents itself, seize it right away.

State the fact of the matter.

Show them the advantages, don’t just tell.

Remember: it’s about value, not price.

Sustain your argument with real world examples.

Nullify opposing arguments using irrefutable logic.

When on a winning streak, don’t hesitate to go for an even better deal.

Never weaken your argument by using it twice. Present the issue from another angle.

If hard facts are against you, switch to an emotional approach.

Make irrational subjective statements…

… then take them to their logical conclusion.

Elizardbeth and Friends in the spruced-up frog corner

…………………………………………..

Leave a Comment or

Click here to see the plant pen wobble.

Red

“Red” – acrylics on canvas – 9 x 11 in (23 x 28 cm) –  © Petra Elster 2015

“Red”is the first painting I made specifically for my Fløra project.

Fløra is about flowers. Flowers that have something else going on with them. Like Monster Trucks which are trucks that have something else going on with them. Or those little scooters with flames painted on.

That’s Fløra: Flowers that are… tricked out. : )

…………………………………………..

Available as:

…………………………………………..

Leave a Comment

Choices

“Choices” – Acrylics on Canvas – 60 x 90 cm – © Petra Elster 2019

No choice
only Life
… knows the big picture
is the big picture.

…………………………………………..

Available as:

…………………………………………..

Leave a Comment

Julietta und Trudi

Julietta und Trudi – Acrylics on Canvas – 5.5 x 11 in (15 x 30cm) © Petra Elster 2008

Julietta and Trudi are lifelong friends.

This is no small thing since they are almost 400 years old. That´s like 12 in human years. :O

The two friends love to garden.

They are getting very good at creating new species of flowers.

Their latest MMO (Magically Modified Organism) is the White Bunny-Eared Wild Violet depicted on this painting.

…………………………………………..

Original: Sold

Available as:

…………………………………………..

Leave a Comment

Express to Nowhere

“Express to Nowhere” – Acrylics on Canvas – 60 x 90 cm – © Petra Elster 2019

Too much. Too fast.
No time. No fun.
No way.
Next stop: my life.

…………………………………………..

Related post:
Painting concrete on SOLO: Express to Nowhere;

…………………………………………..

Available as:

…………………………………………..

Leave a Comment

Painting concrete on SOLO: Express to Nowhere

This is one of the studies I made for my piece “Express to Nowhere” that is part of my SOLO project.

Color Study for Express to Nowhere

I am happy that I managed to find a solution to painting the pattern of the concrete slabs that doesn’t involve gimmicks.

I decided not to use gimmicks on SOLO. Gimmicks are all those things that aren’t exactly painting: pouring, sponging, throwing salt onto wet paint, mixing in additives, and other fun things you can do to a wet canvas. (This sounded sexy.)

There is nothing wrong with using gimmicks. In fact, some people do incredible art based on gimmicks. I, myself, like to indulge in gimmicks from time to time. I call them techniques then.

The problem with these – ok, let’s call them – techniques… is that they are fairly unpredictable and if you go that way, you are subordinating your art to the whims of the elements.  When it comes to control over your art, a brush is a brush is a brush. A sponge, on the other hand,  is a frog in a pond of crimson red.

I went to a watercolor workshop once, where the instructor filled up time demonstrating all the weird stuff you can do to your painting, to get the watercolor to do things by itself, so that you – the artist – don’t have to bother learning how to do them. He brought out all kind of spatulas and knives and at some point he was waving a salt shaker over a wet watercolor, causing the paint to retreat in despair. He prodded at the salt with a silicone brush,  applied some heat on the painting  to make it dry faster and then collected the grains that spilled onto the table with the spatula. I felt I was in a cooking class.

The pattern that emerged  did look gorgeous, but the lights and darks settled themselves wherever the salt landed. If he had to repeat that pattern, with any level of control, he wouldn’t be able to.  Gimmick-aided painting takes advantage of physics and leaves a great chunk of decisions to the gods that run the universe. And you know how the universe operates, right? Sometimes you get butterflies, sometimes you get tornadoes. It depends on the mood of the particles involved.

The other problem of using indirect painting techniques (the fancy name for gimmicks) is that, if you are working on a series, and you use a gimmick on one painting, you have to incorporate the same gimmick in other paintings of the series that show the same material or theme. For instance, if I were to use splattering or sponging to achieve a concrete effect on this painting, I would have to figure out a way of incorporating sponging in all paintings of this series that showed concrete, otherwise this one painting would just seem wrong and out of place among the others.
A series calls for coherence.

Since I have no intention of suffering under the tyranny of gimmicks throughout the whole project, I decided to go without, as I generally do. If I have to deal with the chaos of paint and water and uneven surfaces, I prefer to have at least some familiar element I can exert control over. And that would be my trusted brush.

Imagine sending a knight to slay a dragon with a tiny fork, a hot plate, a couple of hammers, a shovel, a pickax and a tuba.

Despite that ridiculous equipment the knight goes out to battle.

He approaches the dragon from behind. He blows the tuba with all his might and pokes the dragon’s business with the tiny fork. The dragon jumps up, startled and appalled. The hero quickly shoves the hot plate under the beast’s left paw. The dragon lands on it, burns itself and screams like a little witch. The knight proceeds to play xylophone on the toes of the dragon’s right paw with the two hammers . The beast looses its balance and falls over, clutching its paw “à la mode” and whimpering. Our hero then hops on the dragon’s chest, hits it over the head with the shovel and in a stroke of incredible luck heroism, cuts its head off with the pickax, killing it.

As you can see it can be done, but if you ask the knight, I bet he prefers to go out to battle with his old and reliable shield and sword.

And so do I.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Leave a Comment.

Creative block

When I was working full time as a commercial artist, I spent all my waking hours daydreaming about how much better I would have it, if I would be just doing my own thing. I won’t lie. It is much better. A thousand times better.

It is… that many times better.

I will draw that and post a link here later.

Nevertheless, just because something feels like a riding a unicorn through clouds filled with little pink bunny rabbits, doesn’t make it any less stressful.

Doing a project is hard work. Doing your own project is many times harder. It is that much harder because of the exact reason it feels so good: you get to decide everything.

This opens up endless possibilities. There is literally an uber-mega-triple-tera-bajjilion ways you can do something you are pulling out of thin air. I didn’t count, but I know they are that many… or even more, because of how many times I got stuck. Since I started to build this project I got stuck in ways I would never get stuck when doing commissioned work.

Commercial artwork has clear boundaries. It is usually an art piece you are required to do, to fit a particular product, to be featured on a particular medium, that is bound to a particular budget and has to attend a particular market. Once you have all those limitations in place, making decisions comes pretty easily.

Doing your own project, on the other hand, is like going to a candy store with a million dollars cash. You can have literally anything you want.

Turns out the Buddhists are right: Getting what you want doesn’t solve anything. Whatever you want, and then get, isn’t interesting anymore and you immediately want something better… or something else. Not only getting anything you want does not solve your original problem… it doesn’t even solve the wanting problem. Every decision you make leads to more and more possibilities until you are face-to-face with a fractal zombie-hydra of indecisiveness that wants to eat your brains.

The way out of this Halloween scenario is to create some sort of boundaries around your project so it doesn’t grow into a Greek epic trash movie.
But how do you put boundaries around a dream? Once you do that , the dream becomes reality and the thrill of being on the edge of chaos disappears.

No more pink bunny rabbits. No more unicorns. The moment you turn your project into reality you take a free-fall from heaven onto earth and are smack-dab in the real world again facing the blank piece of paper that sent you off into the unknown in search for a good sentence to describe what the hell your project is about.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE SPECIFICATIONS OF SOLO UP TO THIS DATE.

(Pepe, Petra, Penelope and Butterfly, the cat : Copyright © Petra Elster – All rights reserved.)

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Leave a Comment.

Yellow Sun

SOLO: Yellow Sun by Petra Elster

“Yellow Sun” – Acrylics on Canvas – 60 x 90 cm – © Petra Elster 2018

I
see
You
see
the
Sun
?

…………………………………………..

Related post:
My Dream;

…………………………………………..

Available as:

…………………………………………..

Leave a Comment.