as i started to do more ambitious paintings, i ran up against an awful inadequacy.
i had forgotten how to draw.
i'd bought zoltan szabo's book and was intrigued by his demonstration painting of a trafalger square lion ... purple and green mix blue? i have to try this!
i got out a full sheet of paper and laid it on the kitchen table and began to copy the lion and its fountain from the small picture in the book.
it went badly. i started with the lion's head, but drew it much too large. i shifted to the body and tried to adjust the head to fit, but now the figure was in the wrong position on the sheet.
i rubbed away a fat corner on the eraser, and chafed up the paper, trying to get the outlines and proportions right.
i felt a dull panic. i had lost my skill. what had happened to me? could i get it back? was this all harder than i realized? was i in over my head?
finally, a woozy caricature of the lion, like an uneasy memory, settled on the page. exhausted, i started to paint into it.
the sheet was too large for me, and the whole thing quickly sank into a horrible chore.
somewhere along the way i gave up fighting it, and just painted it like a room ... this wall left to do, and thank god i'm done.
i learned a few things with that fiasco. that the failures are worth doing. they reveal where more work needs to be done. i started to practice drawing, and chose simpler images to learn with.
and progress is a roller coaster, not an escalator. just because i did a good painting didn't mean i wouldn't do another bad one. no matter how good i got, the bad ones just kept on coming ... like zombies out of the murk.
and that painting skill isn't a single strength, like pumping iron. a painting gets made with unequal skills. i was getting good at color mixing, but was still lousy at drawing, value composition and color planning.
i began to adjust my projects to stretch each skill at the level it was at, rather than every skill at the level of the best. a simple drawing and value composition, with adventurous color mixing, was the kind of project i needed in order to keep myself painting.
i started to look for the paintings i was able to do: my ability to see a painting started to harmonize with my ability to do a painting.