I’ve been focusing on everything I still need to do when I should be paying attention to what I have accomplished.

Yes, it’s unprecedented. I’m untypically behaving like an optimist. Who knew? It must be this week’s successful therapy session where we worked on isolating what I’m feeling. I keep complaining about how I don’t know what I want; well, first, I have to determine what it is I’m feeling.

I’ve been doing DBT in therapy. It’s a technique that’s been helping me a great deal, but the skills are not easy to do, especially for those with a lot of past trauma. But I’ve been implementing them every day for the last few weeks, thanks to a daily app. 

Anyway, I guess some of it is making it a little easier to be more self-aware. While I think about what I need to do or should be doing, I’m trying to convince myself that looking at my accomplishments is a better use of my thinking moments. 

I may have done the easiest parts of the book first, but I have still done a lot so far. Here’s a list:

  • Created the layout, which maybe took the most time!
  • Cut all the paper
  • Completed the photographs
  • Printed all the digital pages
  • Cut the covers and the little feet
  • Carved the lino blocks
  • Finished all the ink drawings
  • Made the bow drill kits
  • Finished most of the pencil drawings
  • Finished most of the hand lettering
  • Finished painting the first aid kit boxes

That’s pretty good. I should be impressed!

Back to isolating my feelings, there’s a way to identify them using DBT skills. This week I’m supposed to work on that whole situation about how I feel when looking on Instagram, those feelings of inadequacy. 

There’s an aspect about interpretations; basically, a note-to-self called “check the facts.” This is something I use more and more all the time. If I feel inferior, like a failure, or mediocre compared to others, this is part of envy, sadness, and shame, and these beliefs are not necessarily true. 

Hannah pointed out in her comments:

“The number of followers or likes on Instagram is 100% completely unrelated to the quality of the art in the posts. It’s related to social media activity, interaction, and gaming the system as much as possible. All social media is the same, for artists, musicians, ‘influencers,’ everyone. You can’t get big numbers without devoting large chunks of your life to it, and, again, gaming the system. ‘Quality’ never enters into it (how could it anyway, since art quality is subjective?).”

This is more true than being some kind of “loser,” another incorrect belief that latches onto me. My honest view is that there is no real competition between artists because I do know art is subjective. Any gallery or collector is attracted to what they are attracted to. You can’t possibly control that. 

That is, you can only control so much. You can control what you create, for the most part. 

Sometimes, I feel like I can’t help what I paint. My goal is to create more of what I like. But it’s not always easy. That might sound weird, but it’s true. I can’t always make exactly what’s in my head. And not everything that’s in my head should be made! Not all ideas should come to fruition, ya know. In hindsight, I’ve had a lot of bad ideas.

But I am proud of a few accomplishments. Certain paintings. Some I even wish I hadn’t sold. I still have a few of them in my collection. Some of them aren’t the most remarkable pieces, but there might be aspects of them for which I’m particularly proud. 

They might not be ones that others are crazy about either. I don’t care. I base my successes on making art that makes me feel good. Hopefully, art that makes me feel great and satisfied. I’ve made over 1000 works of “art.” But there are not too many that make me feel that way.  

A few older pieces are Mother (sold), Polar Bearing, and September Schizachryium. From the early 2000s, those are my favorites.

Mother, 2003. Oil, paper patterns, graphite, and thread on canvas, 24 x 24 inches.
Polar Bearing, 2003. Oil, paper patterns, Czech glasshead pins, graphite, and thread on canvas, 24 x 24 inches.
September Schizachryium, 2005. Oil, manila paper, acrylic, and graphite on canvas, 24 x 24 inches.

Then there was Forgive: A pivotal painting I did in 2007 that combined my Pattern Paintings with my cartoons, or my abstract art with the “figurative:”

Forgive, 2007. oil, paper patterns, pencil & thread on canvas, with a couple pins, 48 x 65 inches.

Making this painting helped me to take off so I could make other things like this:

In my Dreams (also known as Dick Boat):

In My Dreams/Dick Boat, 2013/2018. Oil and pencil on linen, 30 x 30 inches.

Though pretty Amy Sillman-influenced, it’s still my own invention, and I feel good about how it turned out. 

I also liked how The Adequacy of And and Not turned out:

The Adequacy of And and Not, 2012. Oil on canvas, 34 x 34 inches.

The Exodus Project (including the collaborative Up To Now). Now there’s something I felt good about. I showed it twice in its entirety: once at Shulamit Gallery and again at the Lancaster Museum. But I can’t show it again because I had to jettison the main pieces when we had to move in a hurry from Alhambra to Monterey Park. 

A painting called The Landscape, sold to a New York collector in the Shulamit show. This painting was the first of the Joshua Tree series, and it was like a breakthrough, milestone, epiphany when I finished it, a challenge to paint for sure. I like a lot of the Joshua Tree Paintings, but that one stands out beyond any. 

The Landscape, 2014. Oil on canvas, 16 x 24 inches.

Of the Rock and Refuge series, I see the two best ones being Doggie Trail and Round House (sold):

The House on Doggie Trail, 2014. Oil, paper, and fabric on birch wood panel, 20 x 20 inches.
Round House, 2015. Oil, paper, and fabric on birch wood panel, 36 x 36 inches.

And from the Memoir show, Watch How I Wrangle and So Gone(sold):

Watch How I Wrangle, 2019. Oil on canvas, 34 x 34 inches.
So Gone, 2019. Oil on canvas, 60 x 40 inches.

Then, a recent painting I really like is a self-portrait called I’m here for the Party. It was an older painting that I hated and painted over. Now it’s precisely as I want it. 

I’m Here For the Party, 2021. Oil on canvas, 24 x 24 inches.

I don’t know if that’s good or bad: roughly fifteen paintings out of more than a thousand? It doesn’t seem like a great ratio, but at least there are some for which I feel were great accomplishments. That’s all that matters. 

There are also a couple of Artist’s books I am quite proud of, like All Done But None and Houses. I hope the one I’m working on now feels as good.

And before I get back to painting (oil), I would like to think about the specific paintings I have felt were successful and try to take a beat. I don’t know when I’ll be getting back to it, though. I have a big open studio event in October for three weeks. I’ll have to paint at least a few small things for that and also get my garage prepared. Oy, that’s going to be a lot of work, a huge accomplishment for sure.

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