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This is the first time in my life when my livelihood depends one hundred percent on my creative output. Every painting requires an absolutely unique journey, ripe with challenges and surprises.
I keep my portrait of George W. Bush in the studio to remind me that struggle is part of the process. I spent hours trying to pull the second Bush president out of the canvas. It took some slight adjustments to the right side of his face, but all of a sudden, the son appeared. Up until that moment, the painting looked more like George H. Bush.
Much like in other professions, there are days when it feels like you can't lose. Everything goes perfectly; the paint seems to fall onto the canvas like magic. There are other days when I feels like the universe is conspiring against me to make my life difficult. It's during the tough days when I struggle on, muscling through the rough waters, knowing that a sheltered cove is not too far away.
With more complicated commissions, I make sure to take a staged approach. I may do the sketching one day, underpainting the next, and detailed work over several more days. In between, I do smaller projects that are waiting in the queue or something just for fun. If I did one request after another, I think I would lose my zeal.
This morning is a great example. I am working on a multi-subject larger piece that is going to take several days. To break things up, I'm going to do a small portrait of some kind just for fun to start my day. In fact, I'm going to do a time lapse video of the process which will force myself to stay within the 60 to 90 minute range for completion. It is my way of staying energized and motivated.
Another tool that I use is doing public projects. It would be easy to stay cloistered in the studio for weeks at a time. However, when requests come in for me to get out in the world, I like to jump at the chance if I am able. This Saturday I will be doing a live painting and setting up a free rock painting station at the Urban Market. It will be wonderful to be among people for 5 hours.
At the end of the day, I've chosen a vocation where I get to create every day. When I was going through the biggest professional struggle of my life, I identified five things that I needed to do to have an ideal life. The list is sitting to my right, where it has been since I drafted it in 2013. It is no surprise what tops the list.