#O111: The Doubt

I hesitated before posting this painting, as I hesitated when making it. But I think a log of paintings should – unlike an exhibition – contain both high and low points. It is, after all, this that makes the tapestry of a life.

The concept in this painting was the same as in my previous one, and it was based off the same source photo. But in this painting I tried many things and the version shown above is the last exasperated gasp. The painting is worth something for me because it is a testament to my emotional state – probably worth more than an index card pointing to my level of skill.


I have gone back to reading Helen Vendler’s book The Ocean, the Bird, and the Scholar. In the introduction, she writes:

The arts are true to the way we are and were, to the way we actually live and have lived— as singular persons swept by drives and affections, not as collective entities or sociological paradigms.

This book is tough going in parts, but it is worth slogging through it to get to the high points. A poem by Langston Hughes, I found, resonates with the theme of my blog:

Wave of sorrow, 
Do not drown me now: 

I see the island 
Still ahead somehow. 

I see the island 
And its sands are fair: 

Wave of sorrow, 
Take me there.

Vendler points out the progression in the poem – the poet moves from a state of resisting the state of sorrow (“Do not drown me now”) to one where he recognizes the value of the dark – it carries him like a tide to the fair sands on the other side (“take me there”), where one hopes he emerges with increased wisdom and understanding.

This is also a constant theme in mindfulness meditation – witnessing what IS, and being with it intimately – even if it happens to be doubt (as in my painting attempt above), depression or chronic fatigue. In my own experience, most of these can be endured with dignity – it is the voices of our own judgement (“why do I feel like this?”) that makes it unendurable.

Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you are happy and content.

12 thoughts on “#O111: The Doubt

  1. Your last paragraph sunk deep in me to be something that resonates. Do you think that what we imagine and desire in our artistic search is ultimately the let down when we don’t achieve it? Well, what we think and feel that we didn’t achieve, that is. Last week, I had a minor reality/self crisis when I wasn’t achieving the results that I wanted and my emotions flew like a mad woman. I wouldn’t want to re-visit that angst no time soon, nope. I often ask myself, what am I after? why do I continue on with painting? What do I torture myself with this? Oh yes, I totally understand your post. Interesting how I see your painting reflecting your struggle but to me it isn’t “bad” as you think it is. In fact, I really like it because I see the depths of your struggle, your soul coming through. Isn’t that truly what art is about? The more I look at your painting, I feel impacted by it. The struggle goes on and yes, allow the moment to be that moment, no judgement or expectation, just breathe and be.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Margaret for your kind and thoughtful comment. I absolutely can identify with what you are saying – I have times when I feel like air walking out of my studio; other times I feel like my house just burned down. I see it like this – we have an internal source of our spirit, call it our home base. We try with our art to break through and connect to that home base. Each painting is an attempt. We fail often, but sometimes we succeed. As Aletha Kushan once commented: “making art is psychologically risky”.
    In my experience, these are two things to consider when we are brave enough to take on this risk: (a) each attempt takes us closer to clarity – it is up to us to believe this is true or not (remembering that “sometimes the things that may or may not be true, are the things we need to believe in the most”). If we do not believe this, if we are filled with doubt and vacillation, the journey is tough and arduous. If we believe it, we are more resilient from a setback, we can paint over a failure and keep on trying until the tide comes in again. (b) I read somewhere that painting is a problem solving process. We start at step 1, stand back and look at the painting. Then we see a problem – something looks “off”. So we ask why, when correct it. The painting goes one step forward. We stand back and see another problem – we solve it. And so it goes until there are no more problems to solve. My “failure” painting above can be fixed, I just need to spot the problems and solve them. Admittedly this will not always be possible if you work in watercolor!!!
    The key to both of the above, I think, is a wise and meditative mindset. Work steadily and with a gentle but courageous spirit in the belief that each painting is a step forward. The key for me personally is to also ask “a step toward what”. For some painters, it is “being successful and making a living from my paintings”. That is a tough one. For me – and I suspect for you also – the answer is much more hidden, and it is the work of our lives, including our spiritual lives, to find that answer and make it clear through SOME of our paintings.
    As always when I talk about the tough road in painting, I refer to Cafavy’s poem Ithaca, specifically the lines “then pray that the road is long” and “Laistrygonians and Cyclops,angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:

      you’ll never find things like that on your way as long as you keep your thoughts raised high, as long as a rare excitement stirs your spirit and your body

    .”
    It all goes back to attitude, which relies on belief.
    All the best Margaret!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Aletha’s statement is so right on! As I read your response, I felt a jab of pain. Not anything directed at me but the fact that you spoke so vividly of that struggle and I relate to it. As I mentioned before I am in the midst of the never ending quest (question!) that either grabs me in a tighter grip or releases me just ever so slightly and I get a better glimpse of where I am going. I truly enjoy reading your thoughtful posts, carry on! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your kind comment. I am glad that the words also have some resonance with you. All the best with your own painting journey.
      By the way – I noted that you paint relatively small. I think a smallish painting often has a beautiful intimate energy that a huge painting cannot match – something deep and soothing that can be kept on a bookshelf over a lifetime. Keep it up!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Carsten for your kind comment. I agree that it is perhaps doubt that keeps us painting. If we were 100% sure of the direction our art would take, and of the outcome of each painting – we would be a bit like factory workers, I think. With doubt and uncertainty it is more like being an explorer?

      Liked by 1 person

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