Painting Sessions (1973->2010)

A Graph-based Study of the Creative Process


This page is a study of painting sessions to reveal the nature of the creative process. It is yet another illustration that truth is not fixed, but relative to the size of the measuring stick. Read on if that type of stuff interests you.


Just finished my 14th work of art, Maternal Love. Reflected upon the limited number of paintings my Person has created over nearly 40 years.

Could remember the pieces – but only a rough order. Also noticed the description of my Person as an accidental artist dominated by spontaneous soul bursts. Wondered about the specifics. Looked back at my abundant records to discover the years each was created.

Discovered that my Person's painting output was actually quite bunchy - not continuous at all. Was surprised to find that after his first painting, The Womb, in 1973-74 there was a flurry of paintings (#2>6) in 1976-77 – followed by a 7 year drought. He experienced another flowering in 1986-87 (#7>9) – then 3 years (1998>1990) to create #10? and 2 years (1991-92) to paint #11? What was that all about?

Then from 1995-99 only two art projects (#12>13) – but split in half. Although all the other creations seemed to have been created from beginning to end with no interruptions, #13 was initiated in 1995 and completed in 1999 with project #12 sandwiched in-between. Hmmm? Certainly didn’t remember that discontinuity. Just have the finished painting – nothing from the duration of creation as the oils cover what went before.

Virtually nothing in the 2000s – with my most recent painting (#14) occurring on the cusp of the 2010s.

Decided to go a little deeper employing the Season as a measuring stick.

No surprises in the first (#2>6) or second (#7>9) painting bursts – both seemingly created continuously over 6 straight seasons. But Whoa! #10 Serena was created over 3 years in three distinct seasonal sessions – broken up by large chunks of time. Further what seemed continuous on the year chart is actually fragmented – as each of the later projects (#10>#14) is separated from each other by enormous numbers of seasons. However under the season criteria each of the projects (except Serena) is still a distinct whole – no parts.

Intensifying the investigation we employ the Month measuring stick.

Whoa! Both the #4 Grigsby and the #6 Bur paintings have months long hiatus between the initiation and completion of the project. Not quite the spontaneous soul burst generated by memory and claimed as an attribute of the accidental painter – instead hesitant, deliberate, unsure, erratic.

Ahhh! Just like envisioned – #7>#9 created continuously for 14 months. The inspired artist working frenetically and passionately for discrete chunks of time.

Uh! Oh? What now? 10. Serena now breaks into 4 distinct parts with large monthly gaps. What’s that all about?

Ahhh! Preconceptions ratified as each of these last projects is taken continuously from beginning to end – no months in-between – except the mysterious 3 year break between the first and last sessions for #13 – with #12 begun and finished in the break.

Too many mysteries remain. Let’s examine the Week charts.

Oops! Exposed as a quantized artist. A 3-week break in the middle of Raking Leaves: 2. Further this was the second session of work on this painting. (The first session was prehistoric – before record keeping. See the Art Biography for details.) Finally the density (days/week) was not that high. Only one week was consumed with the painting. The rest were partial – 5 days/week or less. A relatively casual soul burst.

Ahhh! Both the Ngady and the Eddie Stankey paintings were taken continuously from beginning to end on the weekly basis. Finally some real paintings. But they still weren’t quick – taking 4 and 3 weeks respectively. Further the density was still low. Note all these ‘soul bursts’ from my late 20s (#2>6) were low density – nothing even approaching the 7 day per week frenzies that accompanied the later projects.

While the aforementioned were created relatively continuously – at least on a weekly basis – the ‘inspired’ Grigsby painting had 4 distinct weekly sessions with months separating the body of the work from completion. Must applaud this guy for his tenacity – not giving up – not forgetting.

Same with the Bur soul burst – over a month between the primary production and finishing up details. Perhaps our Person is afraid of completion. This is affirmed by his willingness to immediately take on projects after the dreaded completion – Grigsby immediately after NgadyBur after Stankey – and Otto with the completion of Bur. Otto?

Ah ha! The mother of all surprises (slightly hyperbolic). The failed Otto project extended over a half a year with more than 20 sessions. Had no idea. Hesitant – stumbling – stopped (forever?). 7 years before picking up another paint brush. Insecurity masked by spiritual arrogance. (Check out the Otto bio for details.)

Cool! At last! Renaissance Faire and Chichinitza - the soul bursts that memory was based upon. Both finished in about 2 months – both with relatively high density – especially Ren Faire.

Then Tulum, my first high intensity work in historical time. (My memory says that the prehistoric Womb was just as intense. But this study has exposed the frailty of our neural networks in terms of recall.) First a low-density preparatory period of 11 weeks (never more than 4 days/wk) – then a 7-week break – finishing off strong with a concentrated 18-week (3 month) high density (from 3 to 7 sessions per week) push. Whoa! Intense. What a soul burst! Had forgotten until scanning the info. Made me tired just looking at the numbers. Nothing compared to what was coming.

And then the Serena painting. What a surprise! A 3-year painting (1988>90)? But the mystery is solved upon closer examination. The first year was spent in preparation – just a few sessions spread over 6 months – quite erratic. Then a 44 week break – in the duration moved from West Figueroa Street (where the photo was taken) to Chiquita Road, where the painting was finally completed. In the spring of ’89 finally got down to work – still spotty but progress is made. Another substantial break – 56 weeks this time. Finally finish the painting in a 2 month moderate intensity burst. Again these painting sessions that extend in a fragmented fashion over years reflect the artist’s tenacity for eventual and perhaps inevitable completion combined with his internal insecurities.

Then after a year break my guy embarks upon his Master Ni painting. Whoa! And Whoa again! My memory was totally corrupted. An 8-month high-density project – multiple 7 days/week – only one week break. Obviously absorbed my entire creative life during production. Only see the painting – not the work – none of the process. So intense it took 3 years before taking up the brush again.

Finally initiate 3 Women: Before the Fall with a moderate intensity 10 week session. Then a bizarre 3 year break in which the entire Kiersarge Pass project was conceived and completed. The brush gradually drew me back with a slow beginning, low density and only 3 weeks. A week off. Then bang! – a high density 5 weeks to nearly finish off the beast. Another week off. Then one last single session to polish up details – the artist’s MO. (For what he learned in the process see the Before the Fall bio.)

In the three years between the beginning and end of Before the Fall the artist created his only sculpture, if you want to call it that. It’s actually a topo mountain – whatever that is. (Check out the Kiersarge Pass bio for details.) However the present study is only concerned with the time it took to create this topographical map of the Eastern Sierras. Overwhelming. Over 8 months of the highest density production – by far – everyday, without exception for four months – no breaks. This included sessions in the same day on his classroom Manzana Creek project, as well. Out of control. Hopefully never again. Lost sight of balance in the obsession with result and project – drawn by the actual feel of the project – wanted to touch and hold the mountain. After completion another year and a half year break before completing the 3 Women project.

Ten years after our reluctant artist begins a casual pencil drawing of his 3 women - again. His brush throws him on the ground – demanding that he paint instead. Fairly steadily with just a break for Christmas he begins and completes Maternal Love – his most balanced work of art since the Renaissance Faire/Chichinitza days – not too long, not too intense, not too dense – moderately obsessive – a few 7 day weeks – with a few small breaks – plus finished in only 4 months from start to finish. All in all, a grand success in attempting to find the middle point between obsessive and tepid.

All in all I find I don't know my paintings at all. In memory their birth and creation were similar - of the same kind. In reality the production of each was entirely unique - very few patterns. The closer we look the more individuality we see.