There comes a time when I step back from my work, and realize there is nothing more to be done. There is no additional brush stroke that will make this a better painting. There is nothing more that needs to be typed in the manuscript. There are no embellishments to add to a book. It is finished. It makes no difference whether the painting was begun that morning or the book has taken months to complete. The realization rushes over me like a wave. At that moment, I am of two minds. The sense of accomplishment conflicts with a sense of loss. Now what? I am faced with two choices. I can simply relax and let the wave carry me or I can rise to the surface. Sometimes, I do both. I raise a glass of wine and celebrate my “masterpiece.” And then I begin to sketch.
When I paint, write, or just work, I feel a sense of purpose that comes from being focused on my task. There is a reason for everything that happens, as I mix my color, knock out a piece of wood with my Dremel, or choose an end paper for a book. Like a compass that points north, I know my direction. For whatever reason, once the work is complete, the compass becomes errant. I putter around the studio, tidying up this, and starting that, with no sense of what I need to accomplish next. Sketching helps bring me back to North.
The sketch to the left is one of a series of grotesques I recently began, inspired by the countless faces I see in pieces of driftwood washed up in Pacific storms.