Evolution of a Storm. And Evolution of YOU.

I have the tendency to over-work my art. (Actually, if I’m honest, this is a tendency that I’d say is evident in other areas of my life too. Ha!) I’m trying to unlearn this habit (both in my art-making and in other areas of my life). Photographing my artwork and looking back to see whether there’s an earlier version in the evolution of the artwork that I really like is one way that I’m trying to unlearn my over-working habit.

This practice is helping me to get better at knowing when to stop, so that I don’t over-work my artwork. Also, if there’s an earlier version of the artwork that I like, then I’ll as myself:

  • What is it specifically that I like about that earlier version?
  • Where else in my artworks – current or planned – could I re-create or integrate this element that I like?

multimedia collage of walking in the rain

In the artwork above, titled “Running Through Rain“, I like the final version best of all. (This isn’t always the case!). I like that the later versions add texture and movement to the piece. I think that creating texture and movement are my favourite reasons for adding more layers and details!

When I look at the earlier versions of Running Through Rain, I really like the bright white and yellow light of the second and third versions. I also like the bold, large areas of colour and the way that the blocks of colour are all different shapes and sizes and they offer a nice contrast against the line work that’s still evident in the figure and umbrella. For me, that contrast is interesting and delightful. Those two earlier versions don’t feel “finished” yet, but they also don’t feel far off from being finished. They’d have been a very different finished artwork through. Instead of a person running through heavy wind and rain, they look and feel more like a scene seen through my wet apartment window, of a person taking a quiet walk through a puddled city street at night after heavy rains.

It’s fun to consider what else this artwork could have evolved into, and to let those ideas and the specific “early version” elements that I like inspire new art I make. You can see some of these elements showing up in the more abstract art I’ve been making.

What about earlier versions of YOU?

Just like our artworks, we ourselves are also evolving masterpieces, with many earlier versions. When last did you look back on all the versions you’ve been and ask yourself whether there are things about earlier versions of you that have been lost, forgotten, squeezed out, or over-worked? Parenting, loss, grief, trauma, chronic illness, and disability are all experiences that can leave us feeling disconnected from qualities, skills, or ways of being that were prominent at other times in our lives, not to mention the daily grind of “adulting”. A lot of the time we can reclaim those qualities if we really want to.

So take some time to look through old photos or journals you’ve kept or chat with friends or family who have been there for your earlier versions, and ask yourself:

  • What is it specifically that I like about earlier versions of me?
  • Where in my life could I re-create or re-integrate this quality, skill, or way of being that I like about earlier version/s of me?
  • How will I do that?
  • Who else knew those earlier versions of me and would be excited to see me re-integrate those qualities, skills, or ways of being now?
  • How might they be able to help me to do that?