Punching Canvas: The Artist in Pain

One of the reasons I buy the highest quality canvases is because, on occasion, they need to be able to take some hard brushwork. I’m rough on them and my brushes anyway but when I am emotional they, like everything else around me, need to be able to take a good beating. Not literally but paint will fly, plastic and metal measuring/leveling tools will be used and I am guilty of hitting the canvas too hard with my brushes when I’m an emotional mess.

The latest thing to cause me to take to my canvas with emotions ablaze is learning that the parrot I have had for the past 25 years has developed a seizure disorder. It took about a week in shock, and a 1500-mile round-trip drive to Southern Appalachia and back for it to sink in but it did and we’re working everyday to fix Gus.

Recompose, 24×36 oil on canvas, artist’s collection

Composing Recompose
The day I learned of Gus’s disorder I came home, threw this canvas on the floor (something I’ve never done) grabbed a vine charcoal and sketched out this painting in about ten minutes. 

I have never designed or painted anything like this, but I can say with absolute certainty that it is far and away the greatest composition I have ever designed. Borne of pure emotion and high intensity but with a solid understanding and control of visual flow, space, shapes and color. It is beautifully balanced with plenty of myself in the story. I can’t imagine topping it as far as design is concerned. Recompose is a visual story of Gus getting sick, and me there to support and guide him to the doctor and restored health. It was painful but to release emotions in that way was healthy.

The next time you’re overly emotional stay away from people – they don’t need your emotions until you have them under control. Close the door to your studio and take to your canvases. Sketch out your work in a way that best fits your mood. Paint in a manner that lets you get those emotions out and use colors or shapes or elements that best express your mood. For me it was bluntly drawing the visual story in rough 2D shapes and colors and lines, crying and pounding my fists the whole way. For someone else it may be literally throwing paint at your canvases or wearing out your best brush on a rough canvas. Whatever it is, go with it. Don’t be afraid to pound on your materials. They are your tools; use them to make your best marks. I have found that working with my hands, such as with pastels, is an excellent way to express emotions in a more basic, primal way, which often suits the angry in me.

When working in a heightened emotional state don’t forget that you’re an artist and not just a hack. Put some artistry in the effort or you might wind up with mud or a mess. No sense in wasting those emotions – try to do something great with them as I did with Recompose

When dealing with difficult or intense emotions that you need help handling, try drawing out the story that is upsetting you. Use your knowledge of shapes, flow, color and symbolism. This helps to get your emotions out while staying focused and in control, at least to some extent. You may just create your best work.

Text and Images copyright Gloria Hopkins, All Rights Reserved.