I worked last week on Self-Portrait No. 21. This portrait was different than the ones I’ve been doing recently in that there were very few shadows on the face, so I couldn’t rely on dramatic lighting and shadows to help me articulate the form. I have to say that although I don’t think this is a total disaster, I know that I dislike this piece. I may come back to it at some point, but I know that this is one of those situations where it’s better just to move on. The one piece of anxiety that I do get from this is the fear that I’ve created all of the best pieces and that it’s all downhill from here. Not a rational thought, but one that definitely crosses my mind.
On the other hand, one of the advantages of creating fifty pieces is the fact that one mediocre piece isn’t going to make or break the entire project. If anything that one piece gets absorbed by the sheer quantity of the other images. For this reason, I’m much less precious about each individual portrait which I think for the most part has a positive effect on how I approach the project. That’s one of the reasons that I’m looking for venues in which I can present several of the portraits at the same time. (ideally all of them) Showing one piece out of its context seems ineffective for what I’m trying to communicate.
I think in general I’m not someone who likes to linger and labor my pieces for extended periods of time. Part of it is my inability to sustain my attention for a long time, but a large part of it is also that I try to maintain a freshness and spontaneity in the work; by laboring a piece I risk losing that immediacy that I’m looking for. That’s not to say that working a piece for a long time can’t get great results; some of my favorite artists are people who work a piece for months, even years at a time. For me though, it’s proven to be an approach which is ineffective for my work process.