Confidence & Paranoia

There was an episode of Red Dwarf back I the ‘80s that I remember watching which stuck with me for some reason. It was (according to the reviews) the worst episode of Red Dwarf they made in that series, and maybe they had a point looking back at it. The thing that stuck with me from that episode however was a line by Lister….

I have to say it, I agree with Chen’s theory, well I agree up to a point 😉 there do appear to be two voices competing inside my head when I think about creating something, before I start my confidence level is soaring. Then at some point in the process Mr Confidence takes a back seat whilst Mr Paranoia pops up – the timing of Mr Paranoia’s arrival varies, sometimes it’s when you look at that blank sheet of paper, other times it’s when you finish the piece and look at it again. This happened with my latest piece, and I have to be honest the painting took far too long to complete; but then I couldn’t dedicate much time to it in one go. As I put the last blobs of paint on I looked at it taped to the drawing board and I’m thinking, “what the hell have I done!” It’s a mess of oversaturated greens, shadows that head in every direction, characters that look like they’ve been cut from another painting and glued in place floating above the grass for some odd reason. You’d have imagined somewhere along the way I’d have realised it wasn’t working, stopped, and started something new, but no. I’m all for the theory that you learn best from your mistakes but do I make so many 😉

In situations like this I often go with a cathartic swearing session, which helped a bit 😉 but weirdly in the middle of swearing I decided to look up the etymology of swearing (and some of the words), which led me to the quote by Ruskin of swearing and cursing…

Swearing and cursing are entirely different things: the first is invoking the witness of a Spirit to an assertion you wish to make; the second is invoking the assistance of a Spirit, in a mischief you wish to inflict. When ill-educated and ill-tempered people clamorously confuse the two invocations, they are not, in reality, either cursing or swearing ; but merely vomiting empty words indecently. True swearing and cursing must always be distinct and solemn ….

Ruskin, “Fors Clavigera”

Although the cathartic swearing session was useful the thought that I was merely vomiting empty words indecently was better somehow. At this point I went in desperation to Photoshop, but nothing I did helped and it became apparent that you can’t polish a turd no matter what you do.

I’m not posting the image online, it has been carefully filed in the cylindrical metal object beneath my drawing board. The idea behind the painting is something I would still like to pursue, but having crashed and burned so impressively this time there’s a slight case of painters block or perhaps it’s Mr Paranoia telling me that a new version will end up filed in the same way. On a positive note, though it’s a small positive, I can now join without shame. Perhaps there should be a campaign to get the successful and proficient artists and illustrators to share one of their disaster pieces now and then – it’s great to see the polished pieces they produce, but it would be nice to know you’re not totally alone when it all goes wrong 🙂

There was a moment whilst painting the sky of the failure where I thought “this is looking quite nice,” and then some of the background trees had a natural look to them which was encouraging at the time so there are a couple of positives. Looking back rather than trashing the painting it should have been taped to the top of the drawing board as a guide of which bits to do differently next time, although the danger there would be me blindly copying the same mistakes and art materials are too expensive these days to make the same mistakes over and over again. So, I’m going to spend the next few sessions at the drawing board going back to basics – large sheets of paper, some very pointy pencils, and try to reset the old grey matter. If you hear me vomiting empty words indecently you know it’s not going well 😉

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