And so I turn to a painting of three people – my sons and a friend – and continue with that. But that one has a very clear message: Start over.
So I’m sanding and sanding and sanding, right down to the foundation. Where is the center? Just the ghosts of three figures are visible. I decide I’m done for the day and on impulse, turn the picture upside down and leave it on the easel.
The next time I look at it – upside down still – there it is. The center is perfectly obvious.
The right brain has been freed from all expectations. It’s very important to be able to do that. Upside down is always a good trick for freeing your perceptions.
But more important, I continue to relate to the person I know while I paint. Having a relationship with them even as the paint and brush work to create a likeness. Thinking about their relationships with each other. Understanding that, learning about it as I go, helps free the eye and the hand. Finally, I know them, and I know how they connect to each other.
When I’ve really figured out who they are – not just what they look like – that’s when the picture is finished. Sometimes it takes a while, but in the end, a little world of humanity is there, in paint.