It took me about an hour. It didn’t start as a black canvas. No, it was supposed to be a new paint party painting. You see I’m doing a painting party on Saturday night for a nice church in my area. I have a few standard paintings that I do in paint parties. They are paintings I know I can paint and teach in the allotted time. They are easy enough that most people can pull them off and have something they are proud of, or at least happy with, when they’re done. This time however the person bringing me in wanted a different design.

Before I go any further, this is not a complaint about the client. What she wanted seemed easy enough. She even sent me a couple of pictures from Pinterest to inspire me. These spawned some pretty unique ideas in my mind. They were quite different from what she showed me but I was confident she would like it, and I set about to make what I was seeing in my head into a reality. I couldn’t do it. About a half hour into the process, I began to see that what I was doing was far too complicated to teach and quite frankly it was kind of ugly. I kept going. Paintings, like most people, go through an awkward stage at different points in their development. I thought maybe this one was salvageable. But around the hour mark, I started to realize it was going nowhere.

First of all for me to teach a painting in a two hour session, I have to be able to paint it myself in 45 minutes to an hour. I’m a confident, experienced artist and most of the people in the pant parties are not. I charge in, they’re usually tentative. A painting that wasn’t finished at about the hour mark is probably not going to fly. A painting that is still “awkward” at that point in time will not be fun for anyone else. So I did what I always do when a painting is dying on the easel. I smooth it off and paint it black. It’ll end up being used for a live painting at my church at some point in the future. (Canvasses are too expensive to waste.)

Why do I share this? The context you’re working in matters. Had I had hours and days to work on that painting to hang on someone’s wall, I’m confident I could have made it a gorgeous piece that someone would have loved. The thing is, I’m not making a masterpiece here. I am making a piece I can teach to a group of people in two hours or less and it wasn’t working. It would do me no good to try to tweak it to make it “pretty.” I had to do something that was a little more accessible. My goal in these paint parties is to help people to have a good time and relax–to remove the fear a lot of people have about making art, in hopes that they will enjoy the process.. Further, I hope that some will discover a love for painting and develop their own gifts. For that reason, I went back to the Pinterest examples to inspire a different take and tried again. As I write this, I am waiting for the paint to dry on that piece so I can do the final details. I’m not sure I am happy with this one either, but I think when the details are done, I’ll be happy. Otherwise it’ll become another black canvas. I hope not.

When you’re creating, the context for which you are creating is huge. Keep that in mind as you work. Time is precious and sometimes black canvasses take a long time to paint.

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