Friday, May 28, 2010

Better, Worse, or Just the Same?

In a recent post, I mentioned that I wasn't happy with the first of three pieces that I did for a client.  I had hoped to send her photos of at least three, so that she could choose one to go with two others she had already purchased.  So I added some plants on both sides, interrupting and covering most of that big horseshoe-shaped area on the bottom, which I felt was competing too much with the focal point.

       Is it better, worse, or just
              the same?

 Sometimes I debate with myself over whether I've actually improved the piece when I make changes like this.  Often I wonder if what I'm putting in is as good as what I'm taking out.  Was it better before?  Was it worth the risk of losing what I covered up?  At these times I hear the eye doctor's voice echoing in my head, "Is it better, worse, or just the same?"  Looking at an eye chart, though, the choice is usually far more obvious.

In life, as in art, the choices are not often so clear.  So, what do you do?  If we doubt all our choices too much, indecision can easily turn into paralysis.  The outcomes of this type of thinking are that you do nothing, which is a waste of your talent and precious time, or that you let circumstances and/or others make your decisions for you.  And believe me, you might not like the ones they make.

Of course, major life decisions are much more difficult to make than choosing what to glue onto a collage.  If you don't like what you've done to a piece of art, you can glue something else on, tear something off, paint over it, or cut it up and reuse the pieces.  If you make a bad choice in life, you have to live with it, literally.  For many of us, this thought is pretty scary.  Lately, I have found decision-making of any kind daunting.  For example, I'm seemingly unable to figure out what direction I want to take with my work.  This is not a life-or-death decision, so why is it giving me so much trouble? 

                                                                  photos by Colin Reusch

In his article, You Cannot Choose the Wrong Path, Stephen Mills writes, "You can’t possibly know what experiences you would have had if you had chosen differently.  Life is too contingent for that kind of after-the-fact-it-might-have-been obsessing."  He sheds more light on this subject in another post, Why You Should be More Decisive:
"When you spend too much time analyzing a decision, you are usually less satisfied with whatever decision you end up making.  People who consider more factors when making decisions are more likely to worry later that they didn’t make the right decisions.  So they agonize during the decision making process and then worry even after they’ve made a decision."  Yup, that's me.

I like the way Larry Crane puts it:  "Often, it is not the end action that creates the most fear; it is the decision to act or not act. Since life offers no guarantees and you would never know that your decision would be wrong until you have made it, then you might as well let go of all of your fear, take the risk, and decide. It is definitely better than keeping yourself in limbo. Although it is true that one wrong turn could get you seemingly lost, it could also be that such a turn could be an opportunity for an adventure, and even open more fantastic roads. It is all a matter of perspective. You have the choice between being a lost traveler or an accidental tourist of life. You have the choice to let go of your fear of deciding."

IT IS ALL A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE.   Can someone remind me of that every three seconds or so?

 OK, these are the three pieces I'm sending to my customer:

Transformation 41

 Transformation 42

Transformation 43

That's my final answer.  I'm not phoning a friend.                       


  1. well I don't feel that way, I just make a new choice, i don't think anything is set in stone! I prefer to go with the flow... xx's

  2. You're very lucky, Cat; your parents raised you well!

  3. Good decision, well made - they look wonderful together. I just recently decided to become more decisive and what you posted is MOSt apposite!

  4. It's all about the adventure, my friend. You gotta' take them chances. You just gotta'! I feel a 'rush' when I take a chance, and I feel a 'high' when those chances succeed. When those chances fail, no worries, l just turn them into something else by taking new chances. To me, that's where all the fun is in this creating thing we do...

    As little as my opinion matters in the choices you made in your recent piece, I think you made the right ones...

    Keep going for it...


  5. Hi Sharmon,

    Two Cents!

    I read this post a couple days ago and had to give it some thought. This is kind of a confession. There are only a few paintings I've done in a life time, that in looking back I wouldn't change. Since I am always changing as a person and artist I see things just a little different as time goes by. Sometimes this is annoying; often I will take an existing and supposedly finished painting and paint over it (my wife gets puturbed). And I can't always stay focused on a series, so I find a good name for it and just title everything I do within a certain time period with the same name relating to a series (so at least the titles and underlying concepts make it cohesive). I keep moving along wiht what I want to convey. Sometimes, as I have mentioned in other blogs, the process is so overwhelmingly fast that I feel like a medium grabbing images from some sort of streaming collective unconscious relating to the universal condition of existence. I know that sounds like so much esoteric BS, but I don't know how else to explain it. I certainly agree with Don: "it's all about the adventure, you gotta take them chances."

    A couple things: 1)I think your current direction is awesome; so organic and natural, it is compelling and I find peace when I view it. 2)Your decision to remove the shape from the bottom left was a good one; would have been OK with it, but better without it and replaced with a more subtle shape befitting of your style.

  6. i trust my intuition, totally, and that makes all the difference to me when it comes to decisions.

    i'm learning to invite my intuition into my art, trying to FEEL the piece rather than think it.

    fwiw, i think the shape was competing, so good choice. ;)

  7. I am seriously so fried that i don't remember if I replied to anyone or not. So please bear with me.

    Don, I do agree about taking chances; just because your decisions usually stink is no reason to quit trying, right? Thanks for the support on my decision- I really do need it!

    Stan, thanks for visiting! Don't worry, your confession is safe with me; I won't tell. I do exactly the same thing. As my inner perspective changes, I'm always tempted to re-do old pieces. And I do relate to "grabbing images from some sort of streaming collective unconscious"; that's when things are going as they should!

    Mon- intuitive decision-making is always the best way to go, unless, like me, you just can't get your "thinking" mind out of the way!


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. I'm happy to reply here, but may not always have time for individual emails.