When I was growing up, there was a game I played at my grandma’s called Kerplunk. You’d load up marbles in a tube on rods that poked through the tube. You’d then remove the sticks slowly until all the marbles fell through.

I feel like managing my energy to paint is like playing Kerplunk, with every additional activity I add to my life tantamount to removing one of the rods. One of the signs you were close to dropping all the marbles was when a marble fell through- usually, you had only one or two more rods left after even one marble fell. For me, this comes across as stabs of fear or anger. I guard against a full Kerplunk. No painting, just mindless television- staring off into space, frozen chicken nuggets for dinner for kids and fast food too many times a week for me.

By the time I’ve started painting, I’ve already done a lot of work to have time to paint. These last few weeks I’ve moved the time I paint from after kid bedtime to before dinner. My wife Christina is really supportive of me painting, and we share the work of making life go. She’s been committed to my success and carving out time for me to paint. Even with her support, though, it’s challenging.

I frankly find painting as much about fear management as skill. I feel afraid that the painting will be a waste of time, and there’s always a ticking clock for me about production. Right now, it’s the show in 2025- but there’s never not been a time where I’ve been painting without a clock. Some paintings I’ll have them cross over into something good about 30% in- then it’s just downhill. Painting is easy- I feel great. Many paintings, though, don’t look good until 70-90% of the way through. I have to maintain calm faith over the period of 100 hours dripped through the clenched fist of my schedule. Some of my sessions are wildly miniscule in scope. I’ll go down to the basement, turn a piece of wood around and try it 16 different ways, put it on, and have to go back upstairs.

I find myself estranged from the romantic artist narrative. I think painting is more psychologically like long distance running than it is like therapeutic emotional release.

After this painting, I’m going to keep focusing on the mini portraits. This one ended up being more complicated than I was thinking, but is stronger for it. I want to do enough of these that they start to ping off of each other- next I think will be doing a brewer or weaver potentially. Maybe a construction worker to have another shoveling person. Lots to do.

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