Constraints and Options

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It is natural for a human being to desire the best in his work, environment and personal output. Between this wishful thinking and real life, there is always a gap we try to narrow.

Life is a long chain of provocations that give us the chance to learn about our surrounding and ourselves, understanding who we are, what we want, and what are our strengths and weaknesses. We continuously plan and refine our goals and the way we respond to life’s demands. Under multiple pressures put on us, the most important thing is our attitude, our understanding based on knowledge, judgment and personal priorities.  Are we going to fight for what we want and believe? Are we stubborn enough to bend reality and make it to work for us -or- are we going to find excuses and surrender?

As in life, so in art.

Few artists have an easy life, it is most common to see artists struggling, not only with their art but with the circumstances around them, coping with sacrifices and, despite of hardships, still working with passion and determination to fulfil their inner drive to express himself.

Almost all artists are confronting with constraints and must adapt themselves and their art to existential realities. Ideal, perfect work conditions are not easy and promptly attainable for an artist, but the presence of constraints in our work is not just negative, it has a good side too.

Constraints enhance our creativity, put pressure on us to find creative solutions that overcome their negative effect and bring us to a higher level of awareness and ability to plan, organize and get what we want. Wonderful work can come out not only in spite of, but because of, these existing limits. For all positive outcome to happen, we need to keep alive the discipline of work; only through effort we can obtain the satisfaction we crave for.

When working space is a problem, sharing space, associating with others can be a good temporary answer. Rethinking the scale of work can be also a solution. Changing medium or painting technic to fit existing constraints is another way to go. Life is fluid, few decisions are permanent, the most important one is to be stubborn, to work, no matter what – to have grit. Opportunities appear all the time, and we need to be ready to take them as they appear.

In my case, I choose to express myself in painting, as the only creative activity I could do in my one-bedroom apartment. My space did not qualify for doing ceramics, so in time my living room turned into a full painting studio. First, I thought about doing watercolor, but it did not satisfy me; I wanted more, bigger, stronger color, and not having to deal with needing a sheet of glass to protect the work.

I found myself confronted with a big decision: oil -or- acrylic?

Acrylics were totally new to me, they were not yet on the market when I was young. Through reading, I learned that oil is more toxic for my living space. So, I decided on acrylics and tried to find a more environmentally friendly brand.

Then I was confronted with another option to choose between tube -or- fluid acrylic. Tube acrylic seemed to me very attractive but considering the amount of acrylic paste spent and the cost of tubes, I decided for fluid acrylics, which I have been using since. Some people are puzzled by the strong color coming from a thin, flat layer of fluid acrylic on my canvases, meant to be used with spraying techniques. It does not bother me; I have come to enjoy brushing with fluid acrylics.

The working constraints do not end with the medium I work with, they are reflected further into the painting technic I use. I am conscious of the limitations imposed on my technique by the smaller easel that fits into my living room studio and the absence of an empty wall to hang the working canvas. I do not complain; I adapted myself to existing constraints and found that I am happy to just be able to paint.

In my dreams, I imagine my energy released by my hand through big brush strokes, each leaving spontaneous marks full of life on the surface of canvas. Yes, I know, in real life there would be impossible because of drippings of color all around. This is why artists need a studio where they can concentrate on expression, and here is where constraints can hold one back.  In my work I try to compensate for these limitations, working on details, but I realize that I am losing spontaneity. I understand now better than before that what I am doing is a compromise which I need to accept, until I can find a way to avoid it, and preserve to the end the freshness and spontaneity of expression.

I enjoy looking at larger paintings. Doing diptych and triptych, partially fulfilled my longing for bigger canvases and at the same time taught me about how the lack of space can complicate the process by trying to keep in balance two canvases next to each other on a small easel.

I started painting at a late age, as a hobby and unsure of how long I will do it. As I went down this path, I did not prioritize organizing my work and space, not believing that painting could become my life, my joy, my happiness. Now it may be too late to take on remodeling my studio to better accommodate my work. Maybe here is something for my readers to learn: organize your work environment as early as you can, make it the best possible; it will help you be true in your expression, efficient and confident. Do not be satisfied with less; aim high and work, work, work.

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