Painter’s Block?

I have posted daily watercolor experiments for quite a while now. Sometimes I get inspiration from a previous post. It becomes fodder for my next blog entry. However, I feel a bit lost today.


For more than a week, I have been writing in a disciplined manner: no less than 15 minute sessions, at more or less the same time of day. This is separate from my for-public-consumption blog, which I also have done on a daily basis since January of 2013.

Beginnings of the blog

My blog began with the mission to share my experience as a sibling of a person who is autistic, low functioning and nonverbal. We grew up in the 1950s and 60s; today Mike lives in a group home on the east coast, I am on the west coast. It is very hard to get to see him.

It took me almost a year to tell the story of my efforts to clarify my relationship with him. I know this might seem strange, but to this day, I don’t know if Mike knows who I am. This story ended in November 2013 with a very disappointing visit. I continued my blog as a way to express myself, the self that my older brother helped to form.

Why bring this up now?

I bring this up to point out that my writing had a single underlying theme for quite a while. I knew what I wanted to say; I just had to set down on paper, thoughts, inspirations, frustrations and schemes I had, in service of one goal: my efforts trying to get to know my brother, Mike.

Today, my daily personal writing does not have an underlying theme. It is a journal. I would like it to be a series of connected thoughts that could be cobbled together into an absorbing narrative rather than the discontinuous thoughts, bits of dreams or other events that stream into my consciousness.

What applies to writing, applies to painting

My trouble writing a coherent narrative seems to be the same creative impasse I have with painting. Just as I write every day, I paint every day too. As I said, now and then the ending of one post inspires the next, but the continuity doesn’t last for long. I have attained some success with series of paintings that have the same thrust (i.e., the brain series (Brain Abstract, Brain Teasers, Untitled, Memory Fades); recently, the misadventures of Madge (Comfort Zone, Grief, Update on Madge ; my hand series from a while ago (About to Hold HandsHands In Context, Playing Hands )), but this is sporadic and concentrates on differing viewpoints of the same subject matter.

My recent modus operandi has been to apply brush strokes to a piece of paper, hoping it will inspire me to add a stroke in another area, ultimately resulting in a meaningful composition. I write in the same way: writing thoughts that recall memories, or inspire further thoughts.

The results are the same with painting as with writing: a pleasing written or painted flourish, without a sustained narrative.

Today’s watercolor experiment:

My experiment today was to see the results of rotation of a wide brush while painting a continuous stroke. I used rough paper in order to show texture. This was a simple experiment with technique. I did not try to make anything else out of it. My innovation of the day was to load half my 3.5 inch brush with cadmium red and the other with gamboge yellow. I painting the background (wet-on-dry) with the dark indanthrone blue.

Watercolor: Abstract - Twisted brushstrokes that look like ribbons

9″x12″ 140# Rough Watercolor Block

I am pleased with the outcome. Although the study is about brush strokes, the fact that I call it ‘Ribbons’ already imposes a secondary meaning to the marks on the paper. Is it appropriate to equate this study with a written sentence? Would a number of different, integrated, contrasting or otherwise interacting brush strokes be equivalent to a paragraph or some kind of narrative? If so, must it be planned by the artist the way a writer plans to tell his or her story?

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