Jody Noelle Coughlin Art Blog
Sometimes you__™ve just got to be the editor you need. It__™s true and in my mind__™s eye, I can see my editor. He is a bit older than me (just by about 40 years or so) with silver hair and a huge attitude (problem) but he is the kind of guy that couldn__™t begin to rattle me if he tried. I am too amused by his cranky nature to be put off by it. In fact, at my age (32) I can somehow relate to it and I__™m not too sure what that says about me and I suppose I don__™t really care.
Also, in my mind__™s eye, I land a story on his desk (well, I actually e-mail it but for dramatic purposes, let__™s say I put it on his desk) well before deadline. He accepts it willingly and off I go to cover an event or interview a politician who is in town for a few hours. See, I am a reporter and writing is my job. My day job. I__™ve given up painting as a whole and am planning to never look back. Before the day is done, the story is back on my desk, tweaked to perfection (if I may say so). My editor has a good eye. He knows his stuff. I learn a lot just be re-reading the changes he has made. A little here and a little there and as time goes on, my writing improves ten fold. It__™s amazing.
But, the unthinkable happens and I lose my job, not because I wasn__™t good at it, but because newspapers are taking a huge hit these days. It__™s all just bad timing. Back to square one. Back to the drawing board I go. Incidentally, my easel sent me some love letters in the midst of all the turmoil, but I put them on a shelf in the back of my closet because I didn__™t have time for them or it. Suddenly, though, I__™ve nothing but time. My editor is long gone. My job is in the can. I__™m staring my artist dream right dead in the face again and it feels kind of strange because I thought I had that funeral a long time ago. You know, the one where you say good-bye and turn and walk away, knowing it your heart it__™s over? Dead. Buried. Six feet underground?
Well, it wasn__™t over. Not by a long shot. My desire to paint came back to life. Maybe it was a ghost. Maybe it never died in the first place. Whatever the case may be, my paintings and I reconnected in a big way. I took those love letters from the shelf, dusted them off and read them one by one. It turns out, my easel missed me while I was roving the land, reporting the news. I had no idea. I felt a pang of regret for my callousness towards it and my creativity. I mean, it used to be one of my best friends. It was supportive, a great listener. Easy to get along with. All of that. I begged for forgiveness and it (my easel) acquiesced (easily) because, after all, it needed me as much as I needed it. We are nothing without each other.
I decided to try again. I painted and painted, allowing myself to express what was in my mind to express. Sometimes good things happened. Sometimes they didn__™t. But, we were working it out, painting by painting. My easel forgave me and all was well.
Now, it seems, the honeymoon is over and my editor is back. Back in my head (for better or for worse) there he is in all his temperamental glory.
This past weekend I decided it was time to try something new. I decided a somewhat serious painting of the traditional water-lilies-in-oil variety was in order. I__™ve painted my fair share of drama-drenched images to be sure. It was time to try something I had never done before. I switch gears a lot, by the way. I like to keep things interesting around here. It__™s how I learn. I zig and zag all over the place (in case you haven__™t noticed).
This time around, with brush in hand, something extraordinary happened. I heard a voice in my head. No, I wasn__™t losing my mind (no more than I already have). It was that old familiar voice. The voice of my editor. I hope he didn__™t kick the bucket somewhere, where ever he may be, and subsequently decided to haunt me for the fun of it, but somehow, I could hear just what he would say if here were watching me paint.
It seemed like he wanted me to look at my painting through critical eyes, not in a mean-spirited way, but in a helpful way. Any good editor knows how to take something good and cut away the fat to make it great. That is what seemed to be happening. He seemed to be asking me what that little squiggle near the bottom left hand of the painting was all about. I had no idea. He said to take it out. I took it out. He asked me what the other strange squiggly-plant-looking things on the upper right hand corner of the painting were all about. Again, I had no answer. Take them out, he said. I took them out. And so it went until the painting was no longer about my desire to experiment with a variety of brushstrokes along with a few water lilies tucked in here and there. No. The true subject of the painting came into focus. It quieted right down. It became brighter and happier.
All of a sudden, it occurred to me that a good editing job applies to a painting as easily as it does to writing. I had never thought of it before, but there it was. Proof that a painting can be edited as easily as any bit of writing. I just had to allow myself (or the voice in my head or the ghost of my former editor) to ask the tough questions. It was no big deal, really, and though I lovingly adorned my painting with all matter of things, in the end, they didn__™t fit the ___story___ I wanted my painting to tell and they had to go. It only made sense.
I guess that old reporter job came in handy after all. My editor is obviously not going to hang around to help me become a better artist, but I can usually guess what he would say if he did. I can pick up where he left off, no problem.
So, water lilies it is, then. Keep it simple. I can do that.