'Again with the Voice of You Can’t?'

'Again with the Voice of You Can’t?'

'Again with the Voice of You Can’t?'

'Again with the Voice of You Can’t?'

'Again with the Voice of You Can’t?'

Summer in the Sound
Summer in the Sound, © 2016 Alicia R Peterson, acrylic on canvas, 10 x 30.” Yes, this story has a happy ending. Photo: Jeff Foster

This year I signed up for my second time at Gallery North’s Wet Paint Festival. In short, wet paint means local Long Island and NYC metro artists gather for three days of en plein air painting. Our view was the historic Gamecock cottage on Long Island Sound. The pressure was on as we have only three days to produce a work worthy of hanging on a wall at Gallery North in an exhibition immediately following this event.

I was not feeling inspired and this made me nervous. So I kept repeating to myself, “Easy peasy, I’ve done this. I know what I’m doing. I produced a great painting last time . . . I am home free. I’m just going to enjoy myself and paint my heart out.”

Doubt Entered

But before long the voice of doubt quietly, insistently wormed its way back into my brain. I fretted to myself . . . “that was beginner’s luck, you can’t do this . . . you are going to freeze.” Then the logistics anxiety started. Creation takes a tremendous amount of energy, could I stay the course painting for three days outside in the summer sun on the north shores of Long Island? How do I get all my stuff there? I always paint outside my studio but I don’t have any of the fancy plein air mobile painting equipment. And since I knew how it went, I could imagine all sorts of things going wrong this time.

Something that makes my spiraling anxiety cycle down is to over prepare. In this case, it also means to over pack. I am so fun to travel with, but . . . ok, I do over pack. I over pack over the top, and oh, did I go overboard with packing up for the Wet Paint Festival. So may I just say, oye did I schlep?

Yes, as a fellow artist remarked, I did bring the whole studio to the outside. Did I need all that art “stuff” . . . no, but did over packing reduce my worry? . . . yes.


Day One

The first day is hot and humid as I am staring at a blank canvas for the entire day. I paint in my mind’s eye, trying to soak in the Long Island Sound and convey this with paint. I feel blocked and discouraged and there is much grumping on my part as I head back to my studio to unpack. I stay up way late in my studio percolating on the view from the day, seeking the call to paint. But I am not feeling the paint groove.

Staring at a Blank Canvas

On day two and three I have a friend help and yes, he is still my friend. The festival was to start at 10 am but I have us on a very early detailed schedule and time for all sorts of things to go wrong. There are lists and post it notes all over my studio. . . don’t forget this. . . do this. Of course, we are set up way too early. I have a brand new tent for shade and I feel quite prepared logistically. But it’s just us and other painters. There are no early morning art lookers to distract me from the fact that I am still staring at a blank canvas.

Blank Canvas

All the artists I see have work on their canvases already and it’s really good. Ok, I have not even mentioned the “I’m an abstract painter where do I fit in” angst. Almost every other artist is representational. What is on their canvas is what you see with your eyes . . . not the inside eyes that I paint with.

Like a breath of fresh air, friends and nice new folks come by later in the morning and I get to talk about yes, my still blank canvas. I have a small curious group all rooting for me under my cool blue tent. My stomach is lead and I am sure I will not produce anything worthy. But I take a deep breath, stand tall into myself, and announce that I am going to paint!

Self Doubt Again?

Oh, they are so watching me. I can just feel their eyeballs on me. I am not ever doing this again. I am not cut out for this. I need solitude! Can I go back to my studio and paint?

Of course, what is happening on my canvas, mirrors what is happening inside my head and it’s not pretty.

I am working on the ground as I often do. I start the work with sections of various blues and greens and then add flow release, a medium that changes the viscosity of the paint. Like the water, my colors start to flow and so do I. While alternating between being lost in my work and thinking “don’t look at me,” there is a struggle on my canvas and beauty won. I have paint all over me, my body is humming with creation and on my canvas is the Long Island Sound. I am very tired, but tentatively pleased.

I step back from my work and in a moment of wanting to share the freedom I feel when I paint, I give blank canvas and paper to the folks under my tent. An impromptu painting class begins. Glory was produced by my new art pals as they too experienced moments of the exhilaration and transformation of abstraction.

P.S. I am still doing a happy dance as this work sold at Gallery North!

What brings you exhilaration and creation? Comment below so we can hear you.

Summer Sound

Summer Sound Details
Details from Summer in the Sound, © 2016 Alicia R Peterson, acrylic on canvas, 10 x 30.”
My view for painting
My view for painting. Happy me after completing Summer in the Sound.



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